Guatemala’s congress has voted 87 to 15, raising the minimum legal age for marriage to 18.
It has been 14 for girls and 16 for boys. However, legislators inserted a clause saying 16-year-old girls can marry with a judge’s authorization in some cases.
Congressman Leonel Lira says the bill will treat sex with underage youths as a form of rape.
“We currently have 14-year-old girls married to men much, much older than them,” Candida Rabanales, the country director for the Save the Children charity that was among those lobbying for the law, told AFP.
“At 18, girls can make their own biological, psychological and physical decisions” before marrying, she said.
UNICEF expert Juan Quinonez says there have been about 4,000 marriages a year in Guatemala involving girls ages 15 to 19. He says 4,700 girls from age 10 to 14 get pregnant every year.