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- Indigenous Children Sold into Marriage in Latin America
Recently, I wrote another article here on the topic of indigenous people having their own laws and justice in Latin America.
While writing that article that you can see here, I came across information about indigenous girls being sold into marriage down here.
Honestly, I only recently heard about this topic when Mexican President AMLO commented on it as you can see here:
“El presidente Andrés Manuel López Obrador lamentó la venta de niñas en comunidades de Guerrero y pidió no estigmatizar a las comunidades indígenas del país.
Durante su conferencia matutina, y tras una pregunta expresa, AMLO señaló que “esta idea de que en las comunidades indígenas sucedan estas cosas y que se cometen hechos de barbarie no debe prevalecer”.
El mandatario continuó diciendo que esta idea “no corresponde a la realidad” y que “es bastante clasista y racista. No es un asunto generalizado”.
López Obrador dijo que estas situaciones ocurren “por los valores que se van perdiendo, por la descomposición social, el predominio del dinero, de lo material, la desintegración familiar y el abandono a los hijos”.
Being honest, I’m a tiny bit confused when trying to understand his comments.
So he says that “the idea that these things happen in indigenous communities should not prevail” and that “it is classist and racist” to say that they happen since they “don’t correspond with reality” but that “he regrets the sale of these girls” and how “they happen due to things like social decomposition.”
So which is it?
Do they happen or not?
And while I agree with him that all indigenous people should not be stereotyped or condemned for the behavior of others, I also find his response to border on the typical for a politician playing identity politics.
Similar to how he tried to win points by demanding that the King of Spain apologize for the atrocities of colonialism when, if we’re being honest, most people don’t give a shit about that anymore.
Typical pandering of a politician in my opinion.
Anyway, as I wrote in this article here, they do happen!
To summarize the point made in the other article, you have had more than 300,000 young girls sold into marriage by families who have sold them for beer, money and livestock.
When it comes to money, the price for a 9 year old girl can range from 2,000 USD (40,000 MXN) to 10,000 USD (200,000 MXN).
And how these young girls are sold into marriage, sexually abused and forced into indentured servitude working for the families that bought them so that their work can pay off the debt that came with their purchase.
For those curious, here’s another video on the topic of indigenous girls being sold into marriage in Mexico.
It doesn’t just happen in Guerrero but Guerrero is one of the most popular states where this happens in Mexico.
But does it happen in other parts of Latin America?
That’s what I was curious about so I looked into it.
Let’s find out together with my armchair Google Analysis.
Child Marriage Ban in Guatemala?
Next, we have this article here stating that a “child marriage ban” was passed in 2015 in Guatemala.
Sure took them a while to ban that one, huh?
Still, despite the ban, the article goes on about how poor families who see their kids as “financial burdens” are still selling the kids into marriage.
Similar to the Mexico example above, you have plenty of young girls sold into unofficial marriages.
One of the financial issues hurting families over there is apparently some drought.
Assuming many of these families live in rural areas, that would make sense as they likely produce their own food.
At least in neighboring Chiapas, I knew about plenty of indigenous farmers who grew their own crops in rural areas for their own consumption or to sell products like coffee.
And apparently Guatemala “has one of the highest rates of child marriage in Latin America, long driven by poverty and cultural acceptance especially among the country’s Maya indigenous communities, with around one third of girls married by 18.”
Still, while plenty of families are still trying to sell their daughters to unofficial marriages, others are trying the legal route also and the law has stopped a few.
With the law raising the legal age for marriage from 16 to 18.
And there was one father in the article cited that tried selling his 16 year old daughter to pay off a debt but the judge overturned the marriage.
But, similar to the Mexico example, girls here are sold for similar items of value like money, cattle and a plot of land.
I’m glad they didn’t say beer like how some do that in Mexico…
Sure seems like the Guatemalans have higher standards than those in Guerrero!
Still, while the issue is still prevalent in Guatemala, the ban is one step against it.
With other actions taken place like local community officers being sent to spread the word about the law and educate girls on their rights.
But not everyone in these rural communities agree with these actions against child marriage as the article cites how “around 10 percent of the communities I’ve visited have opposed the law because of machismo and because of their economic situation.”
For those curious, here’s a video on the subject of the child marriage ban in Guatemala.
Selling of Underage Girls in Bolivia
For those curious and who speak Spanish, here’s a video about the topic of underage girls being sold into marriage in Bolivia.
And it’s basically the same story as what you have heard so far.
Some family with financial difficulties in a rural area usually looking to sell their daughter to a much older man.
That older man buys the kid.
He then sexually abuses her, gets her pregnant and mistreats her in other ways.
But the video does have actual footage of some of these underage girls so you can see for yourself in video what goes on with some of them.
Including some footage and discussion with a man who bought an underage girl with some gold.
Many of these people that the video looks at happen to be in more rural areas of a part of Bolivia called Beni.
A part of Bolivia that I’ve written about here.
Selling Virgins in Medellin
Finally, it should be shown an example of how not all of these underage girls are sold and living in rural areas of Latin America.
Sometimes they might live in more populated areas like the Colombian city of Medellin as you can see in this video here.
The video showing how underage virgins are sold into marriage in the Medellin basically.
Similar to the video of Bolivia, this also shows footage of some of the girls, discussing their life stories and showing the men who bought them.
Many of the men being foreigners or narco dudes.
Enjoy the video if you speak Spanish.
How Many Girls Are Sold into Marriage?!?
You know what’s fucked up?
According to this article here from UNICEF, apparently “1 in 4 girls in Latin America and the Caribbean marries or enters in early union before 18 years” and how “Latin America and the Caribbean is the only region in the world where child marriages have not decreased in the last 25 years and occupies the second place in the world in the number of teenage pregnancies.
That’s a surprising statistic to me.
Really? One in four women in this region?
Well, I might understand now what AMLO might’ve been trying to say. Perhaps he was implying that it’s not just an indigenous girl thing?
That it happens to women of other backgrounds?
If that 1 in 4 number is true, then I’d have to agree with him.
Obviously, not all of those 1 in 4 girls are indigenous since most folks in Latin America are not indigenous.
Though I imagine, at least from what I have read and how indigenous people tend to be relatively poorer, that the issue likely impacts their communities more frequently.
Still, that’s a crazy number to throw out there!
One in four?
To be fair, despite having been around Latin America, I have been in Mexico City for quite a while now.
The reality for women in Mexico City might not be perfect but I imagine it’s better than those in rural Guerrero.
Still, we have that one in four number.
But how is that number country by country?
Let’s break it down among various countries in Latin America.
According to this source here, “three percent of Bolivia's girls were married by age 15 between 2005 and 2013, and 22 percent were married before they were 18 years old.”
Then this source here says that “nearly 1 in 4 girls (or 23%) are married or in a union before the age of 18” in Mexico.
For Peru? This source here says “almost one in five young girls in Peru is married before the age of 18. In addition, they are prepared for their future married life from a very early age.”
Then we have other countries like Argentina where it’s not AS BAD as you can see here: “Almost 5% of girls under 18 in Argentina are married or living with a partner.”
For Chile? It’s a little worse as you can see here: “According to United Nations reports, roughly 12 per cent of all Chilean girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are either married, divorced or widowed.”
And Brazil is a lot worse as you can see here: “According to Unicef, Brazil has the fourth highest number of child brides in the world – 3,034,000. According to the most recently available data, 36% of Brazilian girls are married before their 18th birthday and 11% are married before the age of 15.”
With Colombia not being much better as you can see here: “Despite the declining preference for marriage, Colombia has very high rates of young marriage. According to UNICEF, 23% of girls are married before they turn 18.”
What about a Central American country like Panama? Well, in Panama, marriages before 18 are also common as you can see here “where an estimated 26% of girls are married before the age of 18 and approximately 7% before the age of 15.”
Anyway, there’s obviously a lot more countries one could look at but those are just some to give us an idea on how this issue varies by where you are in Latin America.
As we can see, the issue is a bit more common than I initially thought.
Of course, within the statistics above, we don’t know how many were sold into marriage versus falling in love with some high school boyfriend at age 17.
Still, it’s a damn young age to marry regardless.
And I think the statistics show, as I said before, that this issue isn’t reserved to just poor indigenous communities in rural areas of Mexico.
Though, as I said, it seems like the issue is more common in rural areas than urban ones from what I saw online.
Obviously, it’s a fucked up thing for this to happen anyhow.
As I said in the other article here, I don’t believe that the indigenous people who do this behavior should be protected under the idea of “usos y costumbres.”
That idea that this is just part of their indigenous customs that should be respected.
There are indigenous customs that should be respected but this isn’t one of them.
If said “indigenous custom” involves sexually abusing and selling off minors, then your indigenous custom is shit and that particular one shouldn’t be respected.
Nor should any non-indigenous person who does be protected either.
Still, what else is there to say?
Outside of the usual complaint you see in the comment sections of some of these articles or videos about how “these families obviously shouldn’t have children if they can’t afford to raise them properly.”
Anyway, if you have any comments or examples to bring up, drop them below in the comment section.
I’m sure there’s a lot more context and details that could be discussed as, given what I’ve said before, I’m truly not an expert on this topic.
I only learned recently that this happens as I never heard of indigenous girls being sold before.
So there’s a lot for me to learn also!
And follow my Twitter here.
Thanks for reading.