Colombia occupies an alarming position of 20 among countries with more married girls

Vichada is the department with the most child marriages in Colombia among girls between 10 and 14 years old.

“I was sold when I was 13 years old. I was 13 and the man was 25. I had my baby when I was 14. I never loved this man. I was abused by her mother, by her family, because they called me at 2-3 in the morning to grind corn and sent me to sell a carton of boiled eggs”, recalls one of the minors, who is part of “Mothers, Fathers”. Focus group and caregivers in Uribia, La Guajira. (Read Looking to study? There are scholarships available for Colombians in Switzerland)

As a minor, in the country 1.8% of girls between the ages of 10 and 14 were married or in early marriage. Of this percentage, 0.5% of girls reported being married, 0.3% reported being divorced or separated, 1.0% reported being in a common-law relationship, and 0.1% were widowed.

This is the main conclusion of the report “Analysis of the situation of child marriage and early unions in Colombia”, a study prepared by UNICEF, UNFPA and UN Women, which was commissioned to analyze child marriage in the country from 2010 to 2020, focusing on children and juniors from Tumaco (Nariño), Arauca (Arauca), Quibdó (Chocó), Florencia (Caquetá), Cúcuta (Norte de Santander) and Uribia (La Guajira).

The child marriage or early unions, the document states, “are any type of union, formal or informal, that involves a boy, girl and/or adolescent under the age of 18, either because one or both members of the couple are minors”. Latin America has not changed in the last 25 years.

Colombia, for example, says Unicef, is borrowing 20th in the world in terms of the number of girls married or in marriage before the age of 15. And in Latin America, it ranks 11th among juniors united before the age of 18, ranking below countries such as Nicaragua, Honduras, Cuba and Uruguay.

According to the National Population and Housing Census (CNPV) in 2018 Colombia 15% of women between 15 and 19 was married or in an earlier union. Of this percentage, 0.85% reported being married, 12.6% in a common-law relationship, 1.4% divorced or separated, and 0.1% widowed.

As for children, the report states that between the ages of 10 and 14, 1.6% are or have been in an early union or family situation. Of these, 0.5% were married, 0.3% divorced or separated, 0.7% cohabiting and 0.1% widowed. The report also states that for male adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19, the rate is 4.8. Of these, 0.5% reported being married, 0.4% divorced or separated, 3.7% married, and 0.1% widowed.

For the local population, study presented that in the population group from 10 to 14 years, 3.8% of girls and 3.2% of boys are or have been in a union; while for minors between the ages of 15 and 19, the rates are 23.8% for adolescents and 8.2% for adolescents.

This percentage is less disturbing in blacks, Afro-descendants, raizales or palenquera communities. For those under 10 to 14, it is 2.5% for girls and 2.1% for boys. And among young people between 15 and 19 years old, it is 18.2% among teenagers and 6.2% among teenagers.

The study also segments the areas of the country where there are more cases of child marriages or early unions are presented. For girls in the age group 10-14, the departments with the highest prevalence are: Vichada (5.3%), Amazonas (4.3%), Choco (4.2%), La Guajira (3.9%) . For children, they are: Vichada (4.2%), Amazonas (3.9%), La Guajira (3.8%), Chocó (3.7%).

In case of adolescents between 15 and 19 years, the departments with the highest prevalence are: Vichada (29.8%), Magdalena (24.5%), Arauca (24.0%), Cesar (23.8%) and La Guajira (23.2%). And for men, they are: Atlantico (23.2%), Bogotá (22.8%), Bolivar (22.6%), Boyaca (22.3%) and Caldas (21.9%).

Main causes of child marriage

“I made it to fifth place. At about 11 years old, I gave up. I said, “I will not study again. Because really, why should I study if I’m going to raise children, if I’m going to be a mother, if I’m going to have a husband. So”. This idea entered my head and I dropped everything and never went back to school”, recalls a 30-year-old woman who was part of this study.

Just like Florencia, there are a few girls who expelled from school. The highest drop-out rate in the country is believed to be in lower secondary education, which precisely coincides with the life path of 12- to 19-year-old girls and adolescents. For this reason, the report states, dropping out of school is associated with an increase in child marriage or early unions.

“The longer a girl or teenager attends school, the more likely she is to delay marriage and early union. Among the factors influencing school dropout are limited access to information and communication technologies (TICS), long — and in some cases dangerous — journeys to educational institutions; also the limited supply of access to public and free technical and higher education”, warns UNICEF in its study.

Another factor is socio-economic because, says UNICEF, child marriages they have a higher frequency in departments with higher multidimensional poverty, such as Vichada, Amazonas, Chocó, La Guajira and Caquetá. “There are greater difficulties in accessing health centers, educational offerings and job opportunities, especially for the population living in scattered rural areas,” the document states.

Gender norms are another structural determinant because they differentiate social and cultural expectations about practices, attitudes, ways of feeling and ways of relating according to whether one is a girl, boy, man or woman. “For girls and adolescents, social and gender norms naturalize their role as guardians of the domestic affairs of the home: cleaning, food, care for third parties. While men correspond to the provider of household goods and money, with decision-making in the home and authority over sexuality and reproductive capacity,” the report said. Other traditions, for example, is the one you noticed among the native peoples, where there is still a tradition associated with early unions.

In these communities, it was also found that in some, based on family and cultural mandates, girls’ age must be ascertained early marriages and unions it is related to her first period, which in several cases begins between the ages of 11 and 13. But in the case of men, it happens when they start having sexual desire or when they start working.

Child marriage is in other cases presented as an escape route from the violence occurring in the home of origin. Little or no knowledge of sexual and reproductive rights is also becoming a determining factor in the increase of early unions among children and adolescents.

What did Colombia do?

Laws played a major role in this matter. The Colombian political constitution provides for the predominance of the rights of children and adolescents over others, proposing a search for their eradication. Colombia’s Civil Code, for its part, prohibits marriages with minors, despite the fact that it allows child marriages for those over 14, with the permission of mothers, fathers or legal guardians.

The Institute for the Welfare of the Family (ICBF) also played a transcendental role in recognizing child marriage and early unions as a form of sexual violence, causing the opening of an administrative process for the restoration of rights. In addition, Resolution 3280 of 2018 of the Ministry of Health recognized this issue as a public health issue related to sexuality. There are established care pathways to promote and maintain health, as well as the Comprehensive Health Care Pathway for the maternal perinatal population.

The protecting and promoting the protection of indigenous girls They are also important in the strategies that the country develops. “It is important to identify practices that are harmful to life and health, such as female genital mutilation or child or forced marriage,” the document said.

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