Child marriage accepted in Brazil to escape abuse at home: researchers

Tue Jul 14, 2015 2:32pm EDT
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By Anastasia Moloney

BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Child marriage is widely accepted in Brazil, where girls seek older husbands to escape from sexual and other violence in the home, or because of teenage pregnancies or the lack of job opportunities, according to new research.

There has been scant research in Brazil on child marriage, and little has been done to tackle it, researchers from Plan International, Brazil's Federal University of Para and the gender equality charity Promundo said.

"Child marriage in Brazil is very normalized and accepted," said Alice Taylor, lead author of the report, whose researchers say it is the first study of its kind in Brazil.

Brazil is ranked fourth in the world in the number of girls married to or living with a partner by the age of 15, with 877,000 women aged 20 to 24 reporting they were married by 15, according to a Brazilian government census in 2010.

Legally, Brazilians can marry at 16 if both parents consent, or earlier in certain circumstances such as pregnancy.

The researchers examined child marriage in the two states with the highest prevalence of the practice in the country - the northern state of Para, and Maranhao in the northeast.

"There’s an assumption ... that child marriage ... happens only in the most remote and rural areas of Brazil. But the research shows it happens also in urban areas and in state capitals, like Belem and Sao Luis," Taylor told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview.

Child marriage in Brazil and across Latin America is "mostly informal and consensual," unlike South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa which have a "more ritualized and formal nature of the practice", the report found.   Continued...