Child marriage in:

Latin America and the Caribbean

UNICEF 2016 % Married by 15
5%
UNICEF 2016 % Married by 18
23%

*Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2016)

The girls stand confidently and proudly as they walk out of the training centre.

UNICEF 2016 % Married by 15
5%
UNICEF 2016 % Married by 18
23%

*Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2016)

Nearly 1 in 5 girls across Latin America are married off before the age of 18 [1]. Due to a lack of data in many countries, however, the scope of child marriage is not fully known.

Current estimates vary widely between and within countries and among rural and indigenous groups. The highest prevalence rates can be observed in the Dominican Republic (37%), Brazil (36%), Mexico (23%) and in Central American countries, such as Nicaragua (41%), Honduras (34%) and Guatemala (30%) [2].

Drivers

A recent study by Population Council (2013) and data from Demographic and Health Surveys indicate that early unions, which are informal, are more prevalent than early marriages or formalised unions in Latin America and the Caribbean [3].

Girls who are most at risk of child marriage are from rural areas and poor households and often belong to indigenous groups. Social stigma around early pregnancies and single motherhood often push adolescent girls into informal unions [4].

Progress and prospects

Latin America and the Caribbean is the only region of the world where child marriage is not on the decline – no significant change has been observed in the prevalence over the last 30 years [5].

Regional initiatives

In November 2015, UN Women, UNFPA, UNAIDS, UNICEF and the Pan America Health Organization launched a regional programme on preventing violence against women and girls, which promotes changes in the laws to eliminate all exceptions to the minimum age of marriage [6].]

Sources

[1] UNICEF, State of the World’s Children, 2016.

[2] UNICEF, State of the World’s Children, 2016.

[3] Population Council, 2013.

[4] Girls Not Brides, Exploratory research: child marriage in Latin America, 2014.

[5] UNICEF, Ending child marriage: progress and prospects, 2014.

[6] UN Women, UN launches regional flagship programme to eradicate child marriage, 27 November 2015.