Saving the souls of child brides

By March 27, 2015
(Image courtesy Kids Alive)

(Image courtesy Kids Alive)

Guatemala (MNN) — Child brides in Guatemala are learning how to be kids again. It’s all part of the “saving souls” effort underway at the Kids Alive International Oasis Center.

“This type of trauma…it’s ‘soul murder,'” says Corbey Dukes with Kids Alive.

“Jesus said that the devil comes to ‘steal and destroy,’ and that’s what this is all about: it’s the devil trying to kill and destroy the soul and hope and future of this child.”

Child brides in Guatemala

The problem of child marriage is a global one, but it’s especially rampant in Guatemala.

World Bank defines “maternal mortality ratio” as the number of women ages 15-49 who die from pregnancy-related causes while pregnant, or within 42 days of pregnancy termination, per 100,000 live births. Guatemala is pegged at 140 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births.

But, that’s the ratio for a wide spectrum of ages. For every 1,000 girls aged 15-19 years old, the ratio jumps to 92. According to Guatemala’s Population Council, 13% of girls were married before the age of 15, and more than half of women ages 20-24, were married before they turned 18 years old.

Guatemala map

Guatemala is located in Central America.

“When we say child brides,” Dukes clarifies, “we’re talking [about] girls who were ‘married’ at 10, 11, 12 years old.

“We’re not talking about a 16-year-old boy and 14-year-old girl, like some ‘Romeo and Juliet’ thing. It’s pedophilia. It’s men in their 30s preying on girls 11 and 12 years old.”

One of the former child brides at Kids Alive’s Oasis Center was “married” before her 12th birthday, and then had a baby. Another was pressured to marry an older man by her mother, the man, and the man’s mother.

“A lot of times [that’s] to cover up a crime, because the authorities are far less likely to prosecute a pedophile who says he’s married to this girl, than somebody who just sexually abused an 11 year old,” Dukes explains.

“A family will make an economic decision to allow this to happen, oftentimes because it happened to the mother of the family and her grandmother. You have generations of abuse.”

The shadow of this evil is dark, but it serves to prove the Light of Christ.

Discovering new life at the Oasis

At the Oasis center, Kids Alive staff doesn’t just restore the safety and future of exploited girls: they introduce them to the love of Christ.

“We see resurrection,” Dukes shares. “Seeing a 12-year-old, 13-year-old girl holding her baby and worshipping God is one of my favorite experiences.”

(Photo courtesy of Kids Alive International)

(Photo courtesy of Kids Alive International)

As stated on Kids Alive Web site, “Kids Alive’s Guatemalan staff works with government authorities to provide a safe haven for girls who have been forced into child labor, experienced physical and sexual abuse (often all three), and have either been abandoned or have fled for their safety and lives.”

Along with introducing girls at the Oasis to Jesus and helping them grow in their faith, Kids Alive staff members teach the ‘tweens how to balance motherhood, their education, and similar responsibilities.

The girls also have an opportunity to receive trauma-focused therapy, and access legal support and protection.

Learn more about the Oasis Center, and find ways you can come alongside it.

“We just see incredible spiritual fruit in the lives of the staff, the lives of these girls,” reports Dukes. “We’re not good enough to produce the fruit that we’re seeing, so it has to be [from] God.”


  • Thank you Corbey for all that you and your team are doing to reach out to these girls. May God continue to bless the ministry and strengthen you all for the work you do among these girls.

  • Katey, thanks for this great, informative article and Corbey, thanks for sharing your experience with such a tough issue. I’ll be sharing this article here:

  • We will continue to pray for the girls and the Oasis staff!

  • Your Name says:

    No hay duda de que los matrimonios infantiles son muy perjudicial para todas las personas involucradas. Aunque algunas de las razones para esto tragedia son obvias, algunos son más sutiles. En primer lugar, quiero expresar las razones específicas, y segundo, las grandes ideas. Si una niña se embarazada, es muy probable que habrá complicaciones. Muchas veces los bebés se nacen prematuro y enfermizo, y también tienen un alto riesgo de estar desnutrido. Además, las madres tienen cuerpos que son demasiado jóvenes para tener niños, y psicológicamente también no están listos. Por eso, muchas veces tienen que recurrir a la ayuda de sus familias. La razón de esto es más complejo: los maridos de estas niñas a menudo los dejan, alegando que los niños no son suyos. Esto revela problemas sociales mucho más grandes, como el desempleo y la vida inestable de los hombres, y también esto conduce a la inestabilidad más grande a través de generaciones de las familias. Es un hecho que el matrimonio infantil contribuyen a los problemas sociales en Guatemala. Para que haya progreso, espero que la gente en los EE.UU. tomen acción para combatir los peligros del matrimonio infantil en Guatemala.

  • Greg Yoder says:

    (Translation) There is no doubt that child marriages are very damaging to everyone involved. Although some of the reasons for this tragedy are obvious, some are more subtle. First, I want to express the specific reasons, and second, big ideas. If a girl is pregnant, it is very likely that there will be complications. Often babies are born premature and sickly, and also have a high risk of being malnourished. In addition, mothers have bodies that are too young to have children, and are also not ready psychologically. Therefore, they often have to resort to the help of their families. The reason for this is more complex: the husbands of these girls often leave, claiming that children are not yours. This reveals much larger social problems such as unemployment and unstable lives of men, and this leads to larger through generations of families instability. It is a fact that child marriage contribute to social problems in Guatemala. For there to be progress, I hope people in the US take action to combat the dangers of child marriage in Guatemala.

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