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Dominican Republic

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
12%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
36%

* References

* 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)

Photo credit: IPPF/WHR

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
12%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
36%

* References

* 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)

What's the child marriage rate? How big of an issue is child marriage?

36% of women in the Dominican Republic are married or in a union before the age of 18 and 12% before their 15th birthday.

 

The Dominican Republic is the country with the highest prevalence of CEFMU in the Latin American and Caribbean region.

8% of men in the Dominican Republic are married or united before the age of 18. This makes the Dominican Republic the country with the 16th highest prevalence of CEFMU among men globally. 

CEFMU is most prevalent in Enriquillo (where 49% of women aged 20-49 entered a union before the age of 18), El Valle (47%) and Cibao Noroeste (46%).

Informal unions are common in the Dominican Republic, whereby girls and adolescents move into the homes of adult men and become their wives. These are difficult to report as they are not officially registered by civil registration systems, and place girls and adolescents in a vulnerable position with no legal protection.

A 2017 World Bank study shows that ending CEFMU in the Dominican Republic could result in more than USD1 billion in savings through additional wages earned by women.

Are there country-specific drivers of child marriage in this country?

Child, Early and Forced Marriage and Unions are driven by gender inequality and the belief that women and girls are somehow inferior to men and boys. In the Dominican Republic, CEFMU are exacerbated by:

  • Gender norms: Traditionally, women in the Dominican Republic are expected to become wives and mothers, while men are expected to provide for the family. Deeply rooted gender roles for women and men allow for a widespread tolerance for early marriage and unions, and result in adolescents girls as young as 15 being pressured into a marriage or an union as early as possible.
  • Poverty: 59% of women in the Dominican Republic’s poorest households entered a union before the age of 18, compared to only 18% from the richest households. Some parents marry off their daughters to reduce their perceived financial burden on the family.
  • Gender Based Violence: Some girls and adolescents see marriage as an escape from domestic violence. However, an early marriage or union puts girls and adolescents at higher risk of being abused by their new husbands.
  • Power dynamics: In a 2017 study, 87% of interviewed girls and adolescents said that they preferred men who were five years older than them, and associate this with greater sexual and life experience and economic independence. 39% of men said they preferred women under the age of 18 who are more “obedient” and “adaptable”.

Adolescent pregnancy: Due to poor sexual education and reproductive health services, pregnancy rates among young girls in the Dominican Republic are high. Among women aged 20-24 who married before the age of 15, 43% had already had three or more children by their first marriage or union. Many girls and adolescents feel social and familial pressure to marry when pregnant.

What has this country committed to?

The Dominican Republic has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Dominican Republic reported substantively on progress and the interventions being made to address child marriage and adolescent pregnancy in its 2018 Voluntary National Review at the High Level Political Forum, the mechanism through which countries report their progress in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Dominican Republic co-sponsored the 2017 Human Rights Council resolution recognising the need to address child, early and forced marriage in humanitarian contexts.

The Dominican Republic also co-sponsored the 2013 and 2014 UN General Assembly resolutions on child, early and forced marriage.

The Dominican Republic ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1982, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

In 2013, the CEDAW Committee recommended that the Dominican Republic raise the legal minimum age of marriage for women to 18 and adopt effective measures to prevent early marriages.

During its 2019 Universal Periodic Review, the Dominican Republic agreed to review recommendations to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 years for both men and women and define child marriage as an offence in the Criminal Code.

Dominican Republic, as a member of the Organization of American States (OAS), is bound to the Inter American System of Human Rights, which recognises the right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and calls to governments to strengthen the respond to address gender-based violence and discrimination, including early, forced and child marriage and unions from a perspective that respected evolving capacities and progressive autonomy.

Dominican Republic ratified the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (known as the Belém do Pará Convention) in 1996. In 2016, the Follow-up Mechanism to the Belém do Pará Convention (MESECVI) recommended State Parties to review and reform laws and practices to increase the minimum age for marriage to 18 years for women and men.

Dominican Republic, as a member of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), adopted the Montevideo Consensus on Population and Development in 2013, which recognises the need to address the high levels of adolescent pregnancy in the region as usually associated with the forced marriage of girls. In 2016, the Montevideo Strategy for Implementation of the Regional Gender Agenda was also approved by the ECLAC countries. This Agenda encompasses commitments made by the governments on women’s rights and autonomy, and gender equality, during the last 40 years in the Regional Conferences of Women in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Agenda reaffirms the right to a life free of all forms of violence, including forced marriage and cohabitation for girls and adolescents.

Dominican Republic is one of the countries where UNICEF, UNFPA and UN Women are working together under the Latin America and the Caribbean Joint Programme for a Region Free of Child Marriage and Early Unions (2018-2021) to: align national frameworks with international standards, empower girls and adolescents, promote policies and services that address the drivers of child marriage and early unions and break the silence nationally and regionally.

What is the government doing to address this at the national level?

The government of Dominican Republic, led by Margarita Cedeño, Vice-president of the Dominican Republic, has signed an agreement with UNICEF to tackle on child marriage and early unions. As a first result, in 2019, the government carried out, with the support of UNICEF, a study on child marriage and early unions in the country with a view to inform public policies and programs to prevent and address these practices.

In addition, the National Plan to Reduce Adolescent Pregnancies (2019-2023) includes among its objectives and foreseen activities various awareness raising activities with families and communities to “denaturalise” child marriage, as well as the revision and adequation of the legal framework to prohibit child marriage and early unions.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

According to the Law on the Acts of Civil Status 1944, the minimum age of marriage is 18 years. However, girls may marry at 15 years and boys may marry at 16 years with parental, and earlier with judicial consent.

In May 2017, the country’s parliament voted to close a loophole in marriage law which allowed girls to marry before the age of 18 with parental consent. As of March 2020, the law is awaiting approval from the Senate.

Source

Centro de Estudios Sociales y Demográficos (CESDEM) Santo Domingo, Encuesta Demográfica y de Salud República Dominicana, 2013, https://dhsprogram.com/pubs/pdf/FR292/FR292.pdf (accessed March 2020).

Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH), La Infancia y Sus Derechos en el Sistema Interamericano de Protección de Derechos Humanos (Segunda Edición),OEA/Ser.L/V/II.133, 2008, https://cidh.oas.org/countryrep/Infancia2sp/Infancia2indice.sp.htm (accessed March 2020).

Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Montevideo consensus on population and development, Regional Conference on Population and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, 2013, https://repositorio.cepal.org/bitstream/handle/11362/21860/4/S20131039_en.pdf (accessed March 2020).

Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Montevideo Strategy for Implementation of the Regional Gender Agenda within the Sustainable Development Framework by 2030, Regional Conference On Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, 2016, https://repositorio.cepal.org/bitstream/handle/11362/41013/S1700033_en.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y (accessed March 2020).

Follow-up Mechanism to the Belém do Pará Convention (MESECVI), Hemispheric report on sexual violence and child pregnancy in the States Party to the Belém do Pará Convention, 2016, https://www.oas.org/es/mesecvi/docs/MESECVI-EmbarazoInfantil-EN.pdf (accessed March 2020).

Gabinete de Coordinación de Políticas Sociales, Ministerio de Salud Pública, Plan nacional para la reducción de embarazos en adolescentes 2019-2023 PREA-RD, 2019, https://repositorio.msp.gob.do/handle/123456789/1218 (accessed March 2020). 

Gastón, C. M., et al., Child marriage among boys: a global overview of available data,Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies,14:3,p. 219-228, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1080/17450128.2019.1566584 (accessed January 2020).

Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review. Dominican Republic, 2019, p. 15, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/DOIndex.aspx (accessed March 2020).

Joint Inter-agency Program to End Child Marriage and Early Unions in Latin America and the Caribbean: 2018-2021, Accelerate Actions to End Child Marriage and Early Unions in Latin America and the Caribbean, 2018, https://www.unicef.org/lac/media/2371/file/PDF%20Accelerate%20Actions%20to%20End%20Child%20Marriage%20and%20Early%20Unions%20in%20Latin%20America%20and%20the%20Caribbean.pdf (accessed March 2020).

Oficina Nacional de Estadística y UNICEF, Encuesta Nacional de Hogares de Propósitos Múltiples – Encuesta de Indicadores Múltiples por Conglomerados 2014, 2016, https://mics-surveys-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/MICS5/Latin%20America%20and%20Caribbean/Dominican%20Republic/2014/Final/Dominican%20Republic%202014%20MICS_Spanish.pdf (accessed March 2020).

Organization of American States (OAS), Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (“Convention of Belem do Pará”), 9 June 1994, https://www.oas.org/es/mesecvi/convencion.asp (accessed March 2020).

Plan International,Dominican Republic Takes Steps to Ban Child Marriage, [website], 2017, https://plan-international.org/dominican-republic-bans-child-marriage# (accessed March 2020).

Plan International, Niñas Esposadas. Caracterización del matrimonio forzado de niñas y adolescentes en las provincias de Azua, Barahona, Pedernales, Elías Piña y San Juan, 2017, https://plan-international.org/sites/files/plan/field/field_document/planteamientos_2_arte_final_print.pdf (accessed March 2020).

Programa Progresando con Solidaridad (PROSOLI), Vicepresidencia de la República Dominicana, UNICEF, El matrimonio infantil y las uniones tempranas, 2019, https://www.unicef.org/republicadominicana/CAP_MIUT.pdf (accessed March 2020).

República Dominica, Informe Nacional Voluntario sobre los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible, 2018, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/19710INV_RD_2018_V2.pdf (accessed March 2020).

UN General Assembly, Compilation prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in accordance with paragraph 15 (b) of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 5/1 and paragraph 5 of the annex to Council resolution 16/21 Dominican Republic, 2013, p.7, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/DOindex.aspx (accessed March 2020).

UNICEF, A Profile of Child Marriage and Early Unions in Latin America and the Caribbean, 2019, https://www.unicef.org/lac/en/reports/profile-child-marriage-and-early-unions (accessed March 2020). 

UNICEF, Ending Child Marriage, Progress and Prospects, 2017, https://www.unicef.org/media/files/Child_Marriage_Report_7_17_LR..pdf (accessed March 2020).

United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg5 (accessed March 2020).

World Bank, Impacto Económico Del Matrimonio Infantil y Las Uniones Tempranas Resumen Para La República Dominicana, 2017, http://documentos.bancomundial.org/curated/es/712331503496265611/pdf/119056-WP-P151842-SPANISH-PUBLIC-WorldBank-CountryBriefDR-PrintReady.pdf (accessed March 2020).

* 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)