Thousands of girls and adolescents in El Salvador will be more protected and their rights will not be violated: the Legislature approved the reform of Article 14 of the Family Code prohibiting child marriage. After several months of discussion, it was unanimously decided to modify the law, which eliminates the exception that allowed girls and adolescents to marry in case of sexual abuse and/or pregnancy.
Before the adoption of the reform, when a girl was a victim of sexual abuse and consequently got pregnant, the law allowed the aggressor to marry her and thus be free of charges. With this reform, girls will be more protected and the aggressor is more likely to be punished. In addition, the law prohibits marriage with another child even in case of pregnancy.
It should be noted that El Salvador has been ranked as one of the most violent countries in the world. For years, this violent context has generated forced displacement of the population, as well as other types of violence including child homicide and sexual violence against girls and adolescents.
"Early pregnancies and childbirths are a high risk for girls, and if child marriage is added to this condition, the girl acquires commitments and obligations that do not allow her to enjoy her rights. These dangers include absence from school, risk of maternal and infant morbidity and mortality, and other violations of the girl's physical and emotional integrity," says Ludin Caballero de Chavez, Operations and Programs Director in El Salvador.
"Save the Children has been working for years to promote this ban. Together with other Civil Society Organizations we have collected evidence of the violation of the rights of girls and adolescents and share these in national and international bodies such as the Committee on the Rights of the Child," she says.
"The End of Childhood global report also helped us to make the situation in the country more visible and make it clear that child marriage is one of the four indicators that violate the rights of girls and adolescents around the world."
Information and advocacy campaigns were also key tools to achieve this important change in El Salvador. On the basis of emblematic cases, we work intensely and consistently to produce press releases, disseminate the issue through the media, hold meetings with government representatives and parliamentarians, and join efforts with other organizations working with children to promote change.
The law is definitely an important step, however - and given the historical, structural and institutional weakness in El Salvador - it takes a lot of work to make effective implementation in the country and thus, girls and adolescents can fully enjoy their rights.
Now it is key to socialize with the population - both at the urban and rural areas - the content of the law reform, and also give training sessions at the community level with parents, teachers and the children themselves.
"We will continue working with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education so that nationally, the girls and adolescents know their rights and know which route to follow in case of a violation of their rights".