The move is expected to help girls stay in school and lower the rate of dangerous pregnancies.
In a landmark step toward gender equality, Honduras has officially outlawed marriage under the age of 18— with no exceptions. The bill was approved unanimously by legislature, in a move that is expected to protect children, improve educational attainment, lower rates of early and dangerous pregnancies, and help prevent sexual abuse and domestic violence.
In Honduras, 1 in 4 children is married before the age of 18. The Central American country has the highest homicide rate in the entire world. Nestled between Nicaragua, Costa Rica and El Salvador, the World Bank reported in 2016 that 66% of Hondurans live in poverty, with 1 in 5 subsisting on less than USD$1.90/ day. Thousands of Hondurans come into the United States illegally every year.
Child marriage happens frequently in Honduras as both a cultural practice and a result of poverty, which is fueled by political instability. It’s not uncommon for a family to trade off their young daughter for financial incentives, and a chance to protect her reputation from becoming spoiled by dating. Sometimes, a girl will marry her sexual offender in order for him to avoid persecution by law.
Child marriage is common around the world, with the highest rates recorded for India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Ethiopia. Currently, marriage in the United States is outlawed for anyone under the age of18, but exceptions are made for parental consent or judicial permission. Between 2000 and 2015, there were over 200,000 registered child marriages in the U.S.
“The fight against child marriage is a strategic way of promoting the rights and empowerment of women in various areas, such as health, education, work, freedom from violence,” said Belinda Portillo from children’s charity Plan International, reported by Reuters.
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