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United Kingdom welcomes legal changes in favour of girls’ rights

The British Ambassador to Guatemala, Thomas Carter, welcomed the reforms made by Congress to the Guatemalan Civil code that increase the legal marriage age for children to 18.

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The British Embassy and the Inter-Institutional Table in favour of girls, consisting of 13 local and international organisations, have been engaged in an intense lobby campaign for over a year explaining the difficult circumstances faced by Guatemalan girls, including lack of access to education, early marriage and pregnancy, and domestic violence, amongst other problems.

These concerns are in line with the global efforts of the UK Government to tackle early and forced marriage, and the British Government hosted the global Girl’s Summit in 2014 on which many girls were able to raise their voice against these practices.

A number of the UK’s Programme Partnership Arrangements with non-government organisations include support for early and forced marriage programmes, particularly Plan International, Womankind Worldwide, the International Planned Parenthood Federation and World Vision.

According to official statistics, in the last five years more than 80,000 marriages of children under 18 have been registered in Guatemala. 4,983 of these involved girls from 10 to 14 years of age. The departments with the highest record of child marriages are Guatemala, Alta Verapaz and Huehuetenango.

To mark the approval of the law, British Ambassador to Guatemala, Thomas Carter, said:

For these girls marriage is not a choice, but something that happens to them with greater or lesser degrees of physical and psychological coercion. These girls are very vulnerable, and at far greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications in pregnancy and childbirth. With little access to education and economic opportunities, they are more likely to live in poverty. By raising the marital age, Guatemala has taken a very important first step towards improving the rights of all girls in Guatemala. We must now work together to inform and guarantee its implementation.

Published 6 November 2015