The South American country allows the 16 and 17 year old to marry with their parents’ or guardians’ permission, a practice that, according to Unicef, primarily affects the girls.
A minor under the age of 18 can marry in most of Latin America and the Caribbean. In Chile, as in more than a dozen other nations, a person can marry at the age of 16 with the permission of his or her parents or legal guardians.
On May 31st 2022, the Senate Constitution Committee overwhelmingly endorsed the concept of legislating on a bill that would make the age of majority a legal prerequisite for marriage. If it passes, the Chile will be like Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico where child marriage were banned, a practice which is classified as “harmful” by Unicef that primarily affects the girls.
The Chamber of Deputies approved the modification of the Civil Marriage Law by a substantial majority (118 votes in favor, eight votes against, and 17 abstentions) a few weeks ago.
The bill’s urgency must be renewed by the government before it can be voted on in the Senate.
In Chile, these types of unions have been greatly reduced in recent decades (from 8,191 in 1990 to 25 in 2020).
Camila de la Maza, the head of the Ministry of Women’s legal reforms department, testified on behalf of girls and adolescents on Tuesday the 31st May 2022. “The project sets the most serious sanction that the legal system in civil proceedings can impose: the bond’s nonexistence if it is contracted. We agree that this is the appropriate punishment”, she stated. People who married before the age of 18 would be able to file for a divorce unilaterally without having to prove “cessation of cohabitation”.
The Office of the Children’s Ombudsman applauded the efforts in ending teen marriage, echoing the counsel of international organizations that have long protected minors’ rights.
According to Roco Fandez, the Undersecretary for Children, this practice creates situations of violence” in asymmetric relationships, establishing settings conducive to gender violence and also to the abandoning of schooling.”
According to Unicef statistics, married minors fall pregnant regularly throughout adolescence, which “increases the risk of problems during pregnancy and childbirth, both for them and for their children,” the organization cautions. This practice can also “isolate girls from their families and friends, as well as limit their engagement in their communities, resulting in serious physical and psychological harm.”
Most of the lawmakers who voted against the bill are members of the far-right Republican Party, which is linked to Spanish groups like Vox.
Teenage marriage, which is considered a “human rights violation,” is one of the UN’s 2030 goals.
Early and forced child marriages are often subjected to “physical, psychological, economic, and sexual assault, as well as limits on their freedom of movement,” according to a study published by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2014.