Child marriage in:

North America

UNICEF 2016 % Married by 15
n/a
UNICEF 2016 % Married by 18
n/a

*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)

UNICEF 2016 % Married by 15
n/a
UNICEF 2016 % Married by 18
n/a

*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)

International support to address child marriage

Canada is a leading supporter of efforts to address child marriage internationally. In the last 5 years, they have committed CAN$80 million to local and global initiatives addressing child marriage. They have also funded the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage and the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage. In 2017, they announced an investment of $650 million in funding for sexual and reproductive health and rights, which in part “aims to prevent and respond to […] child, early and forced marriage”.

Over recent years, the United States has increased its efforts to support adolescent girls and committed an estimated US$9.4 million to efforts to end child marriage between 2011 and 2016. However, the future of the US Adolescent Girls Strategy, and important initiatives including Let Girls Learn and girls’ empowerment programmes supported by USAID, are unclear under the Trump administration.

Child marriage in North America

There is no regional data for child marriage prevalence in North America. In 2017, Girls Not Brides member Unchained At Last estimated that almost 250,000 girls[1] were married under the age of 18 between 2000-2010. No such data yet exists for Canada. Anecdotal evidence suggests that child marriage is driven by a desire to control female sexuality, financial or migration-related motivations, and religious or traditional beliefs.

Data for child marriage in Mexico can be found on the Latin America and the Caribbean page.

Legal status of marriage in North America

The legal age for marriage in North America varies due to federal laws.

Almost every state in the US and Canada sets the legal minimum age at 18 but exceptions that exist mean girls can be married younger with parental or judicial consent. In 27 states in the US, there is no minimum age for these exceptions.[2] Legal challenges to these laws are ongoing in several states.

Regional initiatives to address child marriage

Child marriage is increasingly recognised as an issue in North America, and regional efforts are needed to address the practice. In April 2017, the Organisation of American States (OAS) Secretary General called for action to end child marriage in the Americas.

Sources

[1] Why can 12 year olds still get married in the United States? The Washington Post, 10 February 2017

[2] Statutory compilation shows how state laws permit child marriage to persist in present day America, Tahirih Justice Centre, 18 November 2016