Most global discussions and actions around child and adolescent marriage focus on hotspot areas in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In Latin America and the Caribbean, researchers and advocates have long studied adolescent pregnancy. But any critical discussion of marriage practices involving minors –which can occur as a result of early pregnancy, or indeed lead to early childbearing– has arisen only recently.
This invisibility of the practice in popular awareness stands in sharp contrast to the prevalence of child marriage in the region (29%), where the highest prevalence rates exist in Brazil (36%), the Dominican Republic (41%), Nicaragua (41%) and Honduras (34%). Brazil is home to the highest absolute numbers of girls in child marriages in the region, and is estimated to be the fourth country in total numbers worldwide: 88,000 girls and boys ages 10-14 are in what the census categorizes as "consensual" (informal), civil and/or religious unions in Brazil.
What is behind these numbers? What are the motivations and consequences of these unions involving minors? Seeking to better understand the practice to be able to contribute to evidence-based programming and policies, Promundo conducted exploratory research that explores attitudes and practices surrounding child and adolescent marriage in Pará and Maranhão, two Brazilian states with highest prevalence.