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CARTA CAPITAL (Brazil)

Worldcrunch

One year has passed since Carlos Augusto Catanheide first noticed the girl with brown skin and green eyes who went to his tiny shop to buy flour. She was 13 and he was 47. They got married soon after in Conceição do Lago Açu, a small town with 15,000 inhabitants in the countryside of Maranhão, in northern Brazil.

Her story and others like them were described in a recent reportage in the São Paulo magazine Carta Capital that explored the lingering phenomenon of underaged wives in Brazil. For girls, marrying before 14 is common in many parts of Brazil, even if the legal minimum age is 16.

In this case, the girl`s mother, Tânia Fonseca, felt nothing but relief with the wedding. "I told him she wasn't a virgin anymore. And that if he wanted her even so, he could try. They spent the night together. The next day, he came here to say that she would stay with him."

In Conceição do Lago Açu, 16-year-old girls are considered too old to get married, she told Carta Capital. Tânia's daughter lost her virginity when she was raped at the age of 12. Her first boyfriend ended up in jail. The second one hit her frequently. The third one was Catanheide. "We're very poor," , says Tânia. "This was a blessing. She had left school two years before she met him. Now she is studying again."

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