Photo credit: IPPF/WHR | Graeme Robertson
Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
UNICEF 2017 % 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 (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)
Brazil is home to the highest absolute number of child brides in the Latin America region, and the 4th highest absolute number of child brides worldwide.
Child marriage in Brazil is less formal and ritualised than in other regions, and many adolescent girls marry or live in informal and consensual unions because they see it as a form of protection in a context where opportunities are limited.
Several factors contribute to child marriage in Brazil. With high levels of early pregnancy girls and their families often view marriage as a way to offer economic security and a way to ensure the man takes responsibility for his children. Marriage is also thought of as a way to protect a girl and her family’s reputation by limiting their daughters’ ‘risky’ behaviour.
In Brazil, child marriage can also be understood as an expression of a girl’s agency. Promundo found that girls often view marriage as the best alternative in the context of limited educational and employment opportunities, and experiences of childhood violence and abuse in their family home.
The legal age of marriage for both men and women in Brazil is 18 with marriage allowed at age 16 with the consent of both parents.
However, exemptions exist for minors under the age of 16 in the case of a pregnancy or to avoid a criminal sentence for statutory rape.
Despite the prevalence of child marriage in Brazil, the problem has not been part of policymaking agendas. The country, like the rest of the Latin American region, has been largely absent from most global discussions around the practice.
Members In Brazil
- UNICEF, State of the World’s Children, 2016
- Anastasia Moloney, “Child marriage accepted in Brazil to escape abuse at home: researchers”, July 15, 2015
- Promundo Global, “She Goes With Me in My Boat”. Child and Adolescent Marriage in Brazil, 2015