“In Guatemala, it's legal for a girl to marry as young as 14 — though many are married far younger than that. The result: Many girls marry men far older than themselves and become mothers long before they are physically and emotionally ready.”
In Guatemala, the legal age of marriage is 14 with parental consent. In the northern part of the country, the law appears to be no more than suggestion. Underage brides are everywhere. Globally, too — child marriage is pervasive in more than 50 countries, with girls in rural areas of developing nations especially vulnerable. In Guatemala, 53 percent of women are married before age 18, and 13 percent before age 15. Many of these girls faced harsh sequences: lack of education (some dropped out as early as elementary school); rampant physical and sexual violence; dangerous pregnancies; and a lack of decent medical care. Most aspects of these girls lives are controlled by older men who consider the girls little more than sexual and domestic servants. Soyla, a young mother I met on my travels throughout the villages, told me that she went to school until the fifth grade: “I was 14 when I was married. My husband is 21. It’s a girl. I want to give her everything. I want her to study.” These physically immature and psychologically unready young mothers are often prone to complications during childbirth, leading to high rates of maternal mortality. Not only that, but these girls are frequently abandoned by their husbands once they make it home with their babies. This is a major issue that needs to be tackled — these girls are far too young to wed and become mothers.