The United States may be quick to point fingers at other nations that allow child marriages, but is this hypocritical? Unchained At Last, a non-profit working to end child marriage, estimated that "the total number of children wed in America between 2000 and 2010 was nearly 248,000." Some of these marriages involved girls as young as twelve.
In fact, twenty-seven states—more than half of the country—do not specify a minimum age for marriage. Instead, they require parental consent and court approval, which could provide a barrier but is instead swayed by what the courts deem special circumstances—like a pregnancy or a child born to the couple.
While marriage has long been seen as a solution to teen pregnancy, it should also be considered that some are now using it to evade legal consequences for statutory rape.
According to an article written by Fraidy Reiss, the founder of Unchained At Last, "In Idaho, for example, someone 18 or older who has sex with a child under 16 can be charged with a felony and imprisoned for up to 25 years. Yet data from Idaho — which had the highest rate of child marriage of the states that provided data — shows that some 55 girls under 16 were married to men 18 or older between 2000 and 2010."
In addition, our U.S. foreign policy is at odds with the laws we enforce here at home. A key goal of The U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls is to reduce child, early and forced marriages. The language of the Global Strategy harshly criticizes marriage before the age of 18, calling it “human rights abuse” that “produces devastating repercussions for a girl’s life, effectively ending her childhood” by forcing her “into adulthood and motherhood before she is physically and mentally mature.” Yet our state laws don't reflect this sentiment.
Read on to see how your state handles underage marriage.
ADVERTISEMENTSource: Thespruce | Independent | Washingtonpost
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