Guatemala Raises Legal Minimum Age for Marriage in a Big Step to Curb Child Marriage

Child Marriage

In what is being hailed as a major triumph for girls around the world, recently Guatemala’s congress passed a law raising the minimum legal age for marriage to 18. This is a major policy shift in a country where it is common for girls as young as 14 to marry.

Early or forced marriage violates girls’ basic human rights and robs them of their chance to reach their full potential. Instead of learning to read and write like most children their age, these girls must leave school to take care of families.

Did you know that six out of 10 indigenous girls in Guatemala will drop out of school before they reach 15? Or that almost half of Guatemalan girls have a child before the age of 20? Sadly 70 percent of adolescent girls who become mothers will live in poverty, while an alarming 80 percent leave school. The facts are staggering, but with this new law, change is on the horizon for millions of girls in Guatemala.

This passage of this law sends a loud message that girls’ futures are valuable, that girls’ dreams matter, and that girls deserve every opportunity to succeed. Fighting child marriage has been a Girl Up priority, and thanks to our supporters and advocates, we’ve been able to fund programming in Guatemala that fought tirelessly to make this change a reality.

These vital programs have helped girls like Keyli, who at 14 years old, participated in a UN-sponsored joint program called Saqilaj B’e: A path to assert the Rights of Indigenous Adolescent Girls. Surrounded by girls forced to drop out of school due to forced marriage or early pregnancy, Keyli wanted more for herself. And through her involvement with Saqilaj B’e, a workshop designed to educate indigenous adolescent girls of their rights, she found a new sense of empowerment.

“I’ve learned that I can do whatever I want if I persist. I’ve learned that I have rights and that gives me new opportunities.”