Latin America is on Track to be the Second Region with the Most Child Marriage

A new UNICEF report sheds worrying figures on the setback in efforts to end child marriage, which endangers the rights of millions of girls around the world.

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LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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The multiple crises that humanity is going through are causing setbacks in decline in child marriage, according to an analysis published on May 3 by UNICEF: The various conflicts, the lasting effects of the pandemic, and climate change are factors that threaten to reverse what has been achieved in the last decade for the millions of girls who are forced to marry as minors.

The latest global estimate on child marriage indicates that an estimated 640 million girls and women were married as children. Likewise, it is estimated that around 12 million girls a year are forced into marriage. Although advances have been made, they are not enough to achieve the global goal of guaranteeing women's rights. "The proportion of young women who were married as children has fallen from 21% to 19% since the last estimates were published five years ago. Yet despite this progress, global reductions would need to be 20 times faster. To meet the Sustainable Development Goal of ending child marriage by 2030," said a United Nations statement.

Likewise, this organization points out that the Latin American and Caribbean region lags in these objectives. Projections indicate that it is on track to register the second-highest regional level of child marriages by 2030. This figure should concern the region's rulers and raise awareness of the need to develop public policies that guarantee girls and women protect their rights.

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Why is there a Risk that Gains in Ending Child Marriage will be Reversed?

According to the Executive Director of UNICEF, Catherine Russell, the economic and health crisis, environmental changes, and armed conflicts cause child marriage to increase worldwide because they cause families to seek a sense of security in child marriage. However, a false sense of security endangers girls' rights. "The world is plunged into one crisis after another, which is destroying the hopes and dreams of vulnerable children, especially girls, who should be students, not wives," Russell said.

Here are some outstanding facts about child marriage around the world based on the latest UNICEF report:

  • Nearly half of married girls live in South Asia (45%), with the following highest percentage in Sub-Saharan Africa (20%), followed by East Asia and the Pacific (15%) and Latin America and the Caribbean (9%).
  • In Latin America and the Caribbean, child marriage usually occurs through informal unions, and no significant progress has been reported in the last 25 years.
  • One-third of the world's married girls are found in India alone.
  • After India, another third of married girls are found in 10 countries (2 Latin American). According to the number of girls, these are Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Brazil, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Mexico, Iran, and Egypt.
  • Child marriage is a phenomenon that occurs more frequently in the poorest sectors of society. Thus, it indicates that "girls living in fragile environments are twice as likely to become child brides than the average in the rest of the world."

Dangers of Child Marriage

Married girls face multiple situations that endanger their rights in childhood and will have repercussions in adulthood. First, they are less likely to stay in school and complete their education, which will affect their financial independence in the future. In addition, they are at higher risk of early pregnancy, which threatens their mental and physical health, including maternal and infant mortality.

On the other hand, UNICEF points out that child marriage also often causes girls to be isolated from their families and friends, resulting in their exclusion from communities. Likewise, it is a practice that makes them more vulnerable to gender violence. All this affects your well-being.

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