‘When you are part of a couple, you have more responsibility’

Living together outside of marriage is common among young Honduran women like her, says Olga Emelina Vásquez Pena. The 19-year-old says she moved in with her boyfriend when she was 17. Now, the couple share their home in the La Paz region with their daughter. Economics play a big role in normalizing such informal unions, according to Vásquez and her mother. “Divorcing here is very difficult and expensive,” the elder woman says. “Here, people are poor.”


OLGA: My name is Olga Emelina Vasquez Pena. My daughter’s name is Estefany Elizabeth Omansor.

INTERVIEWER: What’s your main reason for moving in with your boyfriend?

OLGA: The main reason is I became pregnant. You cannot take care of a child alone.

We don’t have jobs, and if the children get sick, you need money. And there is no work here — only cleaning on the farms.

Here, kids get together with partners around 17 to 21 years old. Few people get married.

It is difficult. There is only work on the farms. There isn’t any other work here.

When you don’t have kids, you go out. But when you do have kids, you worry about them if you go out.

When you are part of a couple, you have more responsibility. You have to do things, even if you don’t want to.

When you have a partner, he can help you get things.

I’m more at ease now because he is working, earning money to buy food and other things.

OLGA’S MOTHER: It is better for them to be together, get to know each other before getting married, because divorcing here is very difficult and expensive! Here, people are poor and can’t get divorced.

Yes, I wanted her to study and get a career, but she decided to get together with her boyfriend.

I only studied for two years, until second grade.

INTERVIEWER: If you could go back in time, would you do anything different?

OLGA: Yes. I wish I had continued studying to get my degree. I didn’t finish high school.

Global perspective

Percentage of women married before 18
10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60%
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United States


The number of children married per 1,000, ages 15-17 years old

(That's about .6%
of 15- to 17-year-olds .)

The term ‘child marriage’ refers to formal marriages and informal unions in which a girl or boy under age 18 lives with a partner as if married. In an informal union, a couple lacks a formal civil or religious ceremony. Our graphic is based on United Nations information. The main sources are national census and household surveys, including the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) and Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS). Surveys are subject to sampling and measurement error. We used the U.N. child marriage and population figures to approximate how many women in each country were married before 15 and before 18.

Source: “Child Marriage Database”. UNICEF (March 2018)

“World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision”. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2017)