Honduras just took a major step forward toward gender equality.
The Central American country outlawed marriage for children under the age of 18 — with no exceptions, Reuters reported.
The Honduran legislature approved the change to the country’s marriage bill unanimously, making it one of the most progressive nations in the world when it comes to protecting children — especially young girls — from the dangers of child marriage.
In Honduras currently, one in four children are married before the age of 18.
The new law could signal a sea change in the rates of educational attainment, early and dangerous pregnancies, and abusive relationships in the country.
Child marriage is frequently driven by both cultural practice and poverty, as girls are traded away to older men in exchange for money and to preserve their reputations as “pure.”
But girls who marry young are frequently unable to complete school as they get pregnant and have children, raising the likelihood that their newly-created families remain in poverty, too. Child brides also tend to get pregnant at young ages, which threatens not only their lives but also the lives of their children. And as they go through their lives, child brides are also more likely to be victims of sexual and domestic abuse
In some instances, a sexual abuser marries his victim to avoid prosecution. The Honduran law banning exceptions to the new legal marriage age will prevent this from occurring.
Child marriage is common throughout many parts of the world, including Central and South America. Brazil has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, along with India, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Ethiopia.
In other countries, like the United States, marriage is banned for children under the age of 18, but exceptions are often allowed with parental or judicial permission. There were more than 200,000 child marriages in the US between 2000 and 2015.
Reuters noted that enforcement of the new law will be difficult in the country’s indigenous and rural communities, but child advocates like Belinda Portillo from children's charity Plan International, still said that Honduras had "made history."
"The fight against child marriage is a strategic way of promoting the rights and empowerment of women in various areas, such as health, education, work, freedom from violence," Portillo said.
CHIME FOR CHANGE is a global campaign founded by Gucci in 2013 to convene, unite and strengthen the voices speaking out for girls and women around the world. The campaign uses innovative approaches to promote gender equality. Co-founded by Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Salma Hayek Pinault, CHIME FOR CHANGE works with a coalition of partner organizations, including the Kering Foundation, Facebook, and Hearst Magazines.