The existence of child marriage is an atrocity. The fact it is legal in the majority of the United States is even more appalling. Child marriage is a crime in and of itself, yet not often discussed. The same way I have discussed that a child cannot consent to performing in pornography or prostitution, applies here. A child does not consent to marriage; this is a form of forced marriage. (Credit to the original creator)
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,” according to UNICEF. How often does child marriage occur? You would think it’s a rare occurrence, but sadly, it’s not. CBS News shared that between 2000 – 2015, more than 200,000 minors were married in the United States, the majority being young girls married to older men. The only states that have strict laws that do not allow child marriage in any case are the following: Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. These laws require that someone can only marry if they are of the age of 18 or older, with no exceptions. Most states think this is government overreach and aren’t on board with banning the practice of child marriage.
To put things into perspective, let’s look at the most extreme cases of child marriage that happened in the United States, according to the World Population Review.
In 2010 in Idaho, a 65-year-old man married a 17-year-old girl
In Alabama, a 74-year-old man married a 14-year-old girl
In Tennessee, three 10-year-old girls married men ages 24, 25, and 31, respectively.
The youngest boy to marry was an 11-year-old who married a 27-year-old woman in Tennessee in 2006.
Why isn’t this issue discussed enough? The idea that a young girl could marry an older man is disgusting. This is not a marriage. This is a forced marriage and possible human trafficking situation, where one party has more power and authority over the other. For the victims, it robs them of their rights as human beings. Girls who are married before the age of 18 are more likely to drop out of school, and never to receive a proper education. Many are likely to experience sexual or domestic abuse. Now, I’m sure there are some who would think that if that child is old enough (i.e. 16 years old), they could have the common sense to leave or go away, even file for divorce. Unfortunately, any legal options for a minor is limited. The child of the marriage isn’t allowed to try to file for divorce, nor can they run away due to strict laws that prohibit children from running away.
This is not an issue that happens overseas. The United States is currently allowing the marriage between a child and a grown man/woman. What can be done to fight this issue? There are two paths you can take, either one or both. First, start talking about it. This issue is widely ignored because it’s uncomfortable. That’s why this issue still exists. By making this a conversation, you make people aware this is an issue we must fight. Second, contact your lawmakers and representatives. The people we elect are supposed to fight for what we want, and we want children to not be allowed to be married. It hurts our most vulnerable. This article is not meant to shame anyone who was part of a child marriage or the product of that marriage. It’s to bring awareness to a travesty that is allowed in our great nation. Stand up and join me in this fight. Child marriage cannot be allowed to continue in this country.