In 2017, four Latin American countries made monumental gains to end child marriage – once and for all!
In the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, child marriage has been outlawed and banned with NO exceptions.
All of us at Plan International welcome this exciting news and are proud to declare that in some countries, we played a role in helping further girls’ rights and create historic change.
Although these bans are instrumental, we know that implementation does not automatically follow and that’s why we will continue to empower and educate girls so that they can exercise their rights and can shape their own future.
Click on the map below to learn more about the four countries that said NO to child marriage in 2017:
In the Dominican Republic, national statistics reveal that 37% of women aged 20 to 49 were married before the age of 18. So, the decision to close a loophole in Dominican Republic’s child marriage law is a welcomed step forward.
In May, the country’s parliament voted for the change in law, following a period of review that saw a girls-led nationwide campaign supported by Plan International. The law change is still pending Senate approval.
Although the minimum age for marriage in the Dominican Republic is 18, the loophole meant that – with parental and judicial permission – a 13-year-old girl could be forced to marry a man twice, or even three times, her age. The circumstances, under which such a union could be granted, were up to a local judge.
Guatemala made history in August, when it became the fourth country in Latin American to enforce an outright ban on child marriage in a single year!
Although Guatemala outlawed child marriage in 2015, a loophole in its Civil Code remained, which made it possible for children aged 16 and 17 to get married if a judge considered the union to be in the “best interests” of the child. These “best interests” were undefined and were at the discrepancy of a judge, but could lead to a 16-year-old girl being forced to marry a man three times her age.
In rural Guatemala, 53 per cent of women aged 20-24 are married by the age of 18 . Although the 2015 ban was intended to reduce this figure, because of the loophole, child marriages continued to be registered right up until the ban came into effect.
Honduras has the 30th highest rate of child marriage in the world, with 34 per cent of young people getting married before the age of 18.
In July, lawmakers in Honduras’s National Congress voted unanimously to raise the minimum marriage age to 18 from 16 and remove a loophole in the law which had meant that children under 18 could get married with the permission of their parents.
Honduran girls supported by Plan International and its partner organizations, campaigned for two years to have this loophole closed.
In August, El Salvador’s parliament closed a loophole in its child marriage law. Although marriage below the age of 18 is illegal in El Salvador, Article 14 of the country’s family code made it possible for girls to be married off before this age under certain circumstances.
These circumstances meant that if a girl became pregnant at 13, for example, she could be forced to marry a man twice her age at the request of her parents or a judge – her consent would not be required, despite the fact that the decision would change her life forever.
All 76 legislators voted in favour of closing the loophole and banning child marriage completely!
We also welcome steps other countries like Malawi have taken this year to end child marriage.
The work to #endchildmarriage is not over yet
The gains made in Latin America are worth celebrating but we must recognize that there is a lot of work yet to be done.
Around the world, 15 million girls are married before the age of 18 each year. Girls are disproportionately impacted by this practice and millions are robbed of their potential.
Child marriage is one of the many reasons girls are taken out of school and it reinforces a cycle of poverty that is difficult to break.
Keep the momentum going!
We’ve seen over and over again, that when children know their rights, they are able to advocate for themselves and carve out a future of their choice. The longer girls stay in school, the less likely they are to be married as children and the more likely they are to be able to write their own future.
Together, let’s empower girls through education!