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  • A couple embrace each other while sitting in the pews of a cathedral in Guatemala City.

    A couple embrace each other while sitting in the pews of a cathedral in Guatemala City. | Photo: Reuters

Published 8 April 2018

Child marriages especially affect indigenous girls, added the report, girls living in rural areas, girls from poor families, among others.

Latin America and the Caribbean has become the only region in the world where child marriages have not decreased significantly over the past decade, according to a recent report by the U.N. children’s agency (UNICEF).

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Other regions such as South Asia record a decrease from 50 to 30 percent in the past 10 years, while Latin America and the Caribbean has recorded a constant, unmodified rate of 25 percent.

“We are observing a real progress in other parts of the world to protect girls from child marriage,” stated in Panama City Maria Cristina Perceval, chief of Unicef for Latin America and the Caribbean. “However, this has not been the case in our region, where one out of four women are being married before 18 years old.”

As a result, these girls do not benefit from the same life opportunities in the medium and long term, with a higher risk of sexual violence, early pregnancies, dropping off school, in addition with the social exclusion from their peers, added Perceval.

Only four countries in the region have banned child marriage, with Honduras, El Salvador, Dominican Republic and Guatemala.

In February, another Unicef report warned that there had been insufficient progress in reducing high teenage pregnancy rates in Latin America and the Caribbean: although overall teenage pregnancy rates “dropped slightly” over the past three decades, the region has the second-highest rate globally.

The total number of girls married in childhood stands at 12 million per year and without public policies properly addressing the issue, more than 150 million additional girls will marry before their 18th birthday by 2030, found the report.

Globally, about one in six adolescent girls (aged 15 to 19) are currently married or in a union. West and Central Africa has the highest proportion of married adolescents (27 percent), followed by Eastern and Southern Africa (20 percent) and the Middle East and North Africa (13 percent). Latin America ranks fourth with 11 percent of the total of adolescent girls.

Correction on April 14th: Other regions such as South Asia record a decrease from 50 to 30 percent in the past 10 years —not a decrease between 30 to 50 percent over a decade as first reported, while Latin America and the Caribbean has recorded a constant, unmodified rate of 25 percent —not a 25 percent decrease as previously reported.


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