Image credit: UN Women
Children under the age of 18 aren’t allowed to drink, vote, or get tattoos. In the United States, however, it is legal for them to get married. How does that make sense? Child marriage is legal in the majority of the U.S., and it should be abolished.
Most people against child marriage consider it a form of forced marriage. Child marriage is defined as “any formal marriage or informal union between a child under the age of 18 and an adult or another child.” Child marriage is defined as “any formal marriage or informal union between a child under the age of 18 and an adult or another child.” The majority of children married are girls. Between the years 2000 – 2018, nearly 300,000 minors were wedded. In most cases, these kids are married to a much older adult. Currently, there is no federal law banning child marriages. Now, how many states have outright banned child marriage? Only six. Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and New York. Six out of the 50 states have made it illegal to marry if under the age of 18.
What are the problems with child marriage, aside from the moral outrage we all feel? For starters, there’s the impact on mental health from child marriages for the victims. Most victims struggle with low self-esteem and PTSD. Child brides/grooms have fewer rights and resources to get out of their situation. Unicef shared that girls who are forced to marry before the age of 18 are more likely to experience domestic violence. With the imbalance of power, large age gap, and lack of education, many child brides are likely to be abused or violated. Because domestic violence shelters are geared toward women, girls are unable to seek refuge. There are limited resources for divorce in child marriages, nor are they able to get an order of protection. Victims of child marriage aren’t allowed to escape.
Additionally, many girls who married young usually drop out (or are forced to drop out) of school. “They have worse economic and health outcomes than their unmarried peers, which are eventually passed down to their own children, further straining a country’s capacity to provide quality health and education services.” Let’s not forget the sexual abuse that can arise from these marriages. When an adult “has sex” with a minor, this is declared as statutory rape and that adult is charged as a sex offender. When that child just so happens to be that adult’s marital partner, the law changes.
So what can be done? Continuously being aware of this crime, for starters. I was shocked to learn that child marriage is legal in the majority of this country. Some states do require that you have to be a certain age to be married, but there must be parental consent. This simply means you, as a marital clerk, could see a young girl bawling her eyes out begging not to be married, and you have no authority to go against the family’s wishes. Parental consent shouldn’t be an option. If they’re under the age of 18, it should be illegal. No other way around it. If we cannot protect our children, then the discussion of human rights is irrelevant. Child marriage should be abolished in the United States. we cannot protect our children, then the discussion for human rights is irrelevant. Child marriage should be abolished in the United States.