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President Luis Abinader signed into law on Wednesday that child marriages are illegal. Photo; elcaribe.com.do
President Luis Abinader signed into law on Wednesday that child marriages are illegal. Photo; elcaribe.com.do

After years of injustice, young girls in the Dominican Republic finally get the protection they deserve from unwanted marriages

President Luis Abindar has followed through on one of his campaign promises.

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Imagine being 14 years old, just discovering new things about yourself, on your way to high school, then all of a sudden, your parents want to marry you off to an older man who you’ve never met.

This incident happens all too often, especially in the Dominican Republic.

UNICEF reported that every one in four girls in the Dominican Republic is married or in an informal union before they turn 18.

Children who are being given away to the hands of strangers is nothing new in the Dominican Republic. In fact, it happens 12 million times every year globally.

Rosa Elcarte, a representative from UNICEF described the harrowing experiences that children in the Dominican Republic go through on a daily basis once their parents give them away.

“Child marriage and early unions are seen as normal in society. It is driven by machismo that sees the role of women to be just a mother and wife,” she said to Reuters.

Machismo is a Spanish term that means, all things “macho, or masculine.” 

The term is still very popular in Latin countries, including the Dominican Republic, and also connotes that men are superior, and brings with it a high percentage of domestic abuse.

“Girls need to have alternative offers that becoming a mother is not their only plan in life. They have to be given job opportunities,” Elcarte said.

Citizens of the Dominican Republic welcomed Luis Abindar as president on Aug. 16, 2020. 

Abindar won 70% of the votes in the elections and the people of the island hoped he could change its infamous child marriage laws, which he deemed unconstitutional on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2021.

Sonia Hernandez, who is the Associate Director at International Justice Mission, (IJM) explains how gender equality should be taught in the Dominican Republic, and how it will take a while in order to teach men who are from the Island.

“Child marriage becomes a permit for an adult to seduce a minor and to cover up his crime and avoid criminal consequences, marries the victim, which represents not only a violation of the fundamental rights of the minor but great danger to the child,” she said.

In June 2020, IJM petitioned the Dominican Constitutional Court to declare child marriage unconstitutional and to change the laws immediately. 

Hernandez also started making #hashtags on Twitter to raise awareness and educate people about child marriages as well as domestic violence and poverty in the Dominican Republic. 

“There have been over 3K tweets with the hashtags #nolacases (#dontmarryher) and #niñasnoesposas (#girlsnotwives),” she said.

A 2017 report by UNICEF and showed that banning child marriage and early unions in the Dominican Republic would decrease the country's poverty rate by 10%.

"Our girls and adolescents will be protected ... and cannot be forced into marriage in their childhood or adolescence, which in the past was often carried out by parents and legally allowed," said Hernandez.

Now that the horrible tradition of child marriage is illegal in the Dominican Republic, young girls can spend less time worrying about marriage, and more time focusing on their education.

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