Guatemala has taken a huge step forward for girls, officially outlawing child marriage following years of advocacy by activists and girl leaders.
New legislation closes a major loophole in the law, a major victory for girls in a country that has one of the highest rates of child marriage in Latin America. According to Unicef, 30 percent of girls are married by 18 years of age in Guatemala. Most common among Mayan indigenous communities, child marriage is driven by poverty, tradition and lack of education and economic opportunities.
Previously in Guatemala, the minimum age for marriage was 16 for boys and 14 for girls. Adolescent girls in Guatemala are the main victims of sexual violence and exploitation, child marriage being one of its forms. Forced into early marriages, girls’ basic rights were flagrantly violated. Child brides are not allowed to make decisions over their bodies and their futures and aren’t given the opportunity to live to their full potential.