September 20, 2020

one in 4 women married before age 18 in Latin America

In Latin America, one in four women married before the age of 18, a situation that has detrimental effects such as dropping out of studies and exposure to violence by the couple, said a report released Friday by UNICEF.

These data taken from the "Profile of child marriage and early unions" reflects that although more and more countries in the region have laws against early unions, it is still in force, said a statement from the UNICEF regional office, with Panama headquarters.

"Early unions or child marriages make it difficult for young women to develop a life project … we cannot keep our eyes closed in the face of this great loss of potential and forgotten rights," said the interim regional director of UNICEF for Latin America and the Caribbean, Bernt Aasen.

The report notes that the nations that lead the prevalence of marriages before the age of 18 are: Dominican Republic (36), Nicaragua (35), Honduras (34) and Belize (33), followed by Guyana (30), Barbados and Guatemala (29); Brazil, Mexico and Panama (26). While the lowest are Jamaica (8) and Trinidad and Tobago (11).

According to UNICEF, if the trend observed in early marriages continues, by 2030 the region will have one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, only behind sub-Saharan Africa.

This would be linked to the fact that in Latin America and the Caribbean, girls at greater risk of facing a situation of child marriage live in rural areas, in poor households and with less access to education.

Regarding early motherhood, the same report showed that 58% of women who married or joined during childhood gave birth before the age of 18, and 28% before their 20th birthday.

"If we do not act now against early unions and child marriage, the present and future of adolescent girls are at risk due to the strong impact of early motherhood, the high risks of partner violence and the consequences of dropping out of school," he said. For its part, the regional gender adviser in UNICEF for Latin America and the Caribbean, Shelly Abdoll.

He mentioned that if this chain of consequences is not interrupted, the cycle will be repeated in the next generations, and added "How long will we remain silent in the face of this brutal reproduction of inequality?"

Regarding reproductive health, in the entire region, about 25% of young women do not see their contraceptive needs met with modern methods.

Given this situation, UNICEF together with the United Nations Population Fund and UN Women work with several actors in the region to reverse alarming and historical trends, placing girls and adolescents at the center of the solutions.

The three international agencies call for greater alignment of national frameworks to international standards, robust programs to support the empowerment of girls and adolescents; and policies and services that prevent child marriage or early unions.

At present, child marriage has been firmly positioned on the global development agenda, especially through its inclusion in the Sustainable Development Goals, especially objective number 5 on Gender Equality, whose purpose is to eradicate this practice to the year 2030.

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