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El Salvador: Legislative Assembly Approves Ban on Marriage of Minors

(Aug. 30, 2017) On August 17, 2017, the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador approved an amendment of the Family Code that prohibits marriage of minors. The revision was adopted in the aftermath of a favorable opinion on the matter that had previously been presented by the legislature’s Commission on Family, Children, Adolescents, the Elderly, and Disabled Persons.  (Tania Escobar, Asamblea Legislativa Reitera su Compromiso con la Niñez para Prohibir el Matrimonio Infantil [Legislative Assembly Reaffirms Its Commitment to Children by Prohibiting Child Marriage], Legislative Assembly website (Aug. 17, 2017).)

One of the most significant changes made to the legislation is the elimination of the second paragraph of article 14, which allowed minors under 18 years old to marry if they had a child in common or if the woman were pregnant. This provision, by allowing minors to marry in these situations, may have resulted in pregnant adolescents who were victims of sexual crimes marrying the perpetrator of the crime.  (Id.; The Family Code, DIARIO OFICIAL [OFFICIAL GAZETTE] (Dec. 13, 1993, as last amended Feb. 9, 2017)  (in Spanish) (click on “Descargar” to download the full text) (Note: this text does not have the latest amendment).)

To harmonize the Family Code and eliminate all provisions that allow marriage of minors, the reform also includes amendments to the Code’s article 20, the first paragraph of article 21, section 5 of article 23, section 4 of article 90, and article 93, as well as the repeal of articles 18, 19, 22, 86, and 92. (Myra Escobar, Asamblea Legislativa prohibe el matrimonio infantil, [Legislative Assembly Prohibits Child Marriage], Legislative Assembly website (Aug. 17, 2017).)

With this reform, El Salvador joins other countries of the region, such as Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama, in prohibiting marriage of minors under 18 years of age. (Id.)

The initiative to prohibit marriages of minors was supported by organizations working and advocating for the rights of children, such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the National Council for Children and Adolescents (CONNA), and other institutions of El Salvador, such as the Attorney for the Defense of Human Rights and the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic. (Myra Escobar, supra.)