Mexico: Report Finds Formal and Informal Child Marriages Still Common Across the Country

Child marriage remains a common practice in Mexico, according to a new report by Investagación en Salud y Demografía, S.C. (INSAD). Mexico has the 8th highest number of child brides in the world, with nearly twenty-five percent of Mexican girls married or “in a union” before the age of 18. One of the most significant findings in the INSAD report was that four out of every five child marriages in Mexico are informal. This means that couples are living together and presenting as though they are married even though they are not legally bound to each other. These “brides” often live with their in-laws, putting “them at greater risk of discrimination and gossip.”

INSAD also reports that despite popular belief, only half of child marriages in Mexico were driven by teenage pregnancy. Rather, prominent factors driving girls to wed young include the desire for financial stability in the absence of available jobs or education, escaping a violent home, and striving for respect and status as an adult within the community. However, marrying young can have devastating consequences for girls, with child brides more likely than older women to suffer domestic and sexual violence. Most child brides in Mexico (more than 90%) also drop out of school.

These findings shaped the report’s recommendations, which focus on paying attention to the specific needs of individual child brides. INSAD recommends that the government adapt its response “to the context . . . and [should] acknowledge the difference between informal unions and formal marriages.” INSAD warns that banning child marriage is not sufficient; Mexico should also take a “holistic” approach to preventing child marriage, including initiatives to keep girls in school and combat harmful stereotypes of women and girls.  

Compiled fromInformal Child Marriages in Mexico: Findings from New INSAD Report, Girls Not Brides (June 23, 2017); Rivero, Estela, and Luis Palma, José, Report on Early Unions in Mexico, INSAD (March 24, 2017).