Child marriage is defined as any union, formal or informal, that involves someone under the age of 18. In more than 94% of cases, that young person is a girl. This phenomenon is normalized and underreported in addition to being invisible.
Under the guise of consent, whether from her or her family, early union highlights social, racial and gender vulnerabilities. It steals an important phase of development and magnifies the disadvantages of girls and women, further limiting their educational and professional life trajectories and making them more susceptible to domestic violence, whether physical, psychological, sexual or financial.
These unions generally reflect the restricted options available to vulnerable girls, anchored in social norms that dictate well-defined roles for girls and women: caregivers, submissives, housewives, mothers. In this context, marriage has always had a prominent place. "This is a multi-causal and invisible phenomenon because its common thread is gender violence as it affects mostly girls, for whom marriage was already considered a destiny. The fact that it happens earlier, therefore, is seen as something natural," explained researcher Viviana Santiago, an activist for the rights of girls.
Translated by Kiratiana Freelon