In an effort to improve the lives of thousands of girls like Aracely, Guatemalan legislators passed a law last Thursday raising the country’s minimum age of marriage to 18. It had been 16 for boys and 14 for girls, though girls often married or entered legal unions much younger. The new law, approved in an 87-15 vote, allows girls 16 and older to marry with a judge’s permission in some cases.
For example, young, teenage Syrian refugee girls in Jordan are being married off to far older men – because, given their circumstances, this is viewed by their families as the best option for them. Every year, 14 million girls are married as children. UNICEF recently released some sobering statistics on the prevalence of child marriage in different countries – Niger, Chad and Central African Republic lead the way. And in South Sudan, a 15-year-old girl is more likely to die in childbirth than to finish school. That is shocking.