Child Marriage In Mexico

Writer: Mariajose de Jesús Castillo Cervantes

Editor: Veronica Yung, Tonwaan Apiratikiat, Pat Sevikul

Graphic Designer: Maulina Gheananta



While child marriage is widely condemed in many parts of the world, this is not the case in Mexico. Girls not Brides, a study by Save the Children, states that 4 out of every 5 girls in Mexico get married before turning 18. In 2020, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) registered 28,000 marriages in which the “bride” was younger than 19 years old.


Though the number of arranged child marriages have decreased throughout the years, it is still a very common practice in poor communities within Mexico. According to an article by Forbes, it is expected that in this decade alone, more than 110 million underage girls will be married against their will, and in 2022 that number is expected to reach 4 million.


But why is this still happening?


In poor communities, child marriage has been normalized throughout out the years, to the point where it has become a part of the customs in certain Mexican communities. According to Forbes, 40% of girls that live in poverty get married, which is double the global average. By contrast, the middle-class remain ignorant to the issue. We can see this reflected in comments made by authorities of the Mexican government. In a recent case concerning the arranged marriage of a girl named Angélica, the media began to question the President, Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, who chose to not speak on the issue. He stated, "[The] issue of the sale of girls, no, I don't come to see that, because that's not the rule, it's the exception." It is in comments like this that show how the media, government, and those with privilege choose to remain ignorant.


Regarding the recent case of Angélica, she was sold to the family of her 12-year-old “husband” at the age of 11 years old, in exchange for $120,000 Mexican pesos and beer. Recently, she escaped from the family because her “father-in-law” wanted to sexually abuse her. Instead, she was arrested and incarcerated for 10 days by the authorities, eventually being given back to the man who wanted to abuse her. He stated that he had the right to do so because “he bought her.”


In cases like these, child marriage can essentially mean selling children, as there have been many cases where girls have been sexually abused by their own father-in-laws just like Angélica. These cases often involve children being married and sold off to become “property” of older men. Because of this, young girls are also exposed to sexually transmitted diseases and also develop the risk of becoming pregnant. Despite this, their bodies have not yet fully-developed, so a portion of girls die giving birth. In 2015, 42.8% of young women between the ages of 12 - 17 had at least 1 child. For those who survive their pregnancies, giving birth affects their education, along with their future, as it is found that 72.4% of married teenagers don’t attend school.


It is important to acknowledge the occurrence of these human rights violations against young girls and boys because it affects millions of children. In 2015, 75,446 teenagers between the ages of 12 - 17 were married, and most were girls. Although NGOs such as UNICEF, advocate to prohibit child marriage in many countries like Mexico, we still see that the number of children affected by this issue continue to increase. A study by UNICEF found that in 2018, the percentage of girls in free union increased from 3.4% to 4.21%.


Child marriage was banned in Mexico in 2019. However, some states have made exceptions, including Guanajuato, Nuevo León, Querétaro, and Sonora.


There are multiple reasons why child marriage still exists in Mexico, but they all are related one to the other.


Macho culture is one of the many reasons child marriage still prevails in Mexico. The idea that a woman’s role is to serve men is still common in many communities. It is normal that young boys will go out to play or go to work with their fathers, while girls will stay with their mothers cooking, cleaning, and doing other housework chores. Due to the normalization of gender roles, child marriage is seen as a necessity to fulfill these ideals. Age isn’t seen as an important factor as it is even common to hear comments such as “You already know how to cook, you can get married now” if you are a young girl.


This leads to our second cause, lack of education. Education is not well managed in Mexico, so many children are unable to complete their studies. The educational system in Mexico is very insufficient due to a number of reasons, which include: a lack of investment in public education, corruption in the education system, lack of promotion, etc. As a result, the youth also receive fewer job opportunities which can result in poverty. In 2020, the percentage of people between the ages 18 - 24 that didn't study or work increased from 21.5% to 23.3%.


Poverty is another factor that fuels the issue of child marriage. A lot of families see their daughters and sons as a way to gain or save money, such as passing the economic expenses of a child to another family. Many girls that tell their stories about child marriage, state that there is always money involved. During the pandemic, the number of young people that were sold to a marriage increased exponentially. According to Forbes, more than 110 million girls under the age of 18 are expected to be involuntarily married this decade due to the impact of the pandemic on the economy.


There are millions of children in similar cases to Angelica. Child marriage is still a problem that affects a large part of society and puts the human rights of minors in danger. Practices like these should be eradicated because they confine children into stereotypes and that don’t let them fully exercise their rights.


 

Sources:

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