Guatemala raises minimum legal age of marriage to 18

  • Posted in:
November 13, 2015
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This story was originally published on the MenCare website on 10 November 2015.

Aracely was 11 when she married her husband, who was 34, in Guatemala. Now 15, she is raising her son on her own. Photo credit: Stephanie Sinclair

Aracely was 11 when she married her husband, who was 34, in Guatemala. Now 15, she is raising her son on her own.
Photo credit: Stephanie Sinclair

In an expedited vote, Guatemala raised the minimum legal age of marriage last week to 18 years old for both girls and boys, reports MenCare partner ECPAT Guatemala.

Before the country’s Congress passed this measure to prevent child marriage, the legal age to marry was 14 years old for girls and 16 years old for boys. Although the new law does allow for certain exceptions, it marks a noted improvement over the previous legislation.

Pressure to raise the legal age to marry increased recently with growing national and international attention to the high rates of child marriage and teenage pregnancy in Guatemala.

This year alone, more than 550,000 Guatemalan girls will marry before the age of 18, according to UNFPA estimates. In other words, 1,500 girls in the country are marrying each day. Last year, Guatemala attributed 74,000 births to girls aged 15 to 19 years old and 5,119 births to those 14 and under.

In addition to laws preventing child marriage, to ensure that the practice ends, it is important to engage fathers and families in Guatemala – and around the world – in challenging the cultural values and gender norms that support child marriage, perpetuate the devaluation of girls, and serve as obstacles to men’s participation as involved fathers.

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