Photo credit: Jonathan Hyams | Save the Children
Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2016 % Married by 15
UNICEF 2016 % Married by 18
* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old.
* According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2016.
Nearly one in four girls in Mexico (23%) marry before their 18th birthday. Mexico has the 8th highest number of child brides in the world.
In Mexico, child marriage often takes the form of informal unions. According to INSAD (2017), four in every five unions nationwide are informal.
Child marriage in Mexico is largely driven by poverty, tradition and patriarchal gender norms. It is most common in rural areas, particularly among indigenous groups where social practices and customary laws prevail over state legislation.
92% of girls in informal unions in Mexico are out of school. Lack of education or employment can push girls to view marriage as a path towards independence and financial stability. Others see marriage as an opportunity to flee violence in their family homes.
Teenage pregnancy is linked to child marriage in Mexico – over half of adolescent girls (aged 12-17) who are married have at least one child.
Gender norms around marriage and girls’ sexuality also play a significant role. On one hand, the sexualisation of girls encourages men to look for younger partners. On the other hand, marriage is still seen by many women and girls as a way to gain respect and status in their communities.
The General Law on the Rights of Children and Adolescents 2014 establishes 18 years as the minimum age of marriage, but girls can marry at 14 and boys can marry at 16 with parental consent.
However, the age of marriage varies at the state level. As of May 2017, 22 states have made married before 18 illegal while another ten allow child marriage.
- INSAD, Report on early unions in Mexico, 2017.
- UN Women, Matrimonios y uniones tempranas de niñas, 2016.
- Sin Embargo Rosagel, The Sale and Arranged Marriages of Young Girls are Common in Chiapas, 2014
- Tahirih Justice Centre Forced Marriage Initiative, Mexico (Accessed at: http://preventforcedmarriage.org/forced-marriage-overseas-mexico/)
- UNFPA, Marrying Too Young, 2012