"Greatest Nation On Earth" -- Still Allows Children To Marry.
Living in the US, we are often sheltered from the injustices of our cruel world. We have this perception that we live in the greatest nation on earth. No other nation can compare to our many freedoms! I'm not saying our country isn't great, not at all. I am only about to point out a fact about our great nation that nauseates me to the core.
I’m here to tell you today about the ugliest “freedom” the people of the United States have. If you didn't read the title, or don't know what this blog is about in general, you might be thinking, “oh boy, here comes a gun control lecture” or “yeah, yeah, we know our teachers don’t get paid enough."
I am here to tell you about the horror of child marriage. -- But, but, I thought that only happened in the developing world? There’s no way a 60 year old man can marry a 12 year old girl in the US, no way. Child marriage makes me sick.
I’m here to burst that bubble. Child marriage is, as of October of 2018, 100% legal in 48 out of 50 states. Kudos to Delaware and New Jersey for curbing this disturbing trend and putting legal protections in place for young children. I'm looking at you Senators and Congresspeople of the rest of the 48!
According to a 2017 Frontline investigation, most child marriages in the US were not between two consenting 18 year olds, but rather, most were between an adult and a minor. According to the same source, 87% of the minors who were married were female. Out of the children they had found to be married before age 18, 86% had been married to adults.
The worst case that Frontline had uncovered was the case of the 74 year old Alabama man marrying a 14 year old girl.
Three 10-year-old girls and an 11-year-old boy were among the youngest to wed The three 10 year olds were all from Tennessee. Happily, this year the minimum age was set to 17 and no minor can marry someone more than 4 years older. Thank you Tennessee!
In Missouri, as of August 2018, Law states that people over the age of 21 cannot marry anyone under the age of 18. Thank you Missouri!
“In 23 states, there’s no minimum marriage age, according to the TJC. Children in those states can get married at any age if certain conditions are met.”
No age floor. No minimum at all in 23 states. It’s great that New Jersey and Delaware pushed for age restrictions, but that is outweighed by the fact that almost HALF of the United States doesn’t have a minimum!
Heather Barr, Senior Researcher for the Women's Rights Division of The Human Rights Watch in October of 2017 while on assignment in Afghanistan, stated that by comparison, Afghanistan has stricter child marriage laws than Florida, and stricter than most of the US if you really look! Afghanistan is known for human rights violations and child marriages. It's saying a lot when you statistically beat a country who is known world wide for child marriages.
“Child marriage occurs in every region of the world and globally, one out of every four girls marries before age 18, and 15 million girls under 18 marry each year—one every two seconds.”
Who Is Helping?
Unchained, a nonprofit advocacy organization lobbying to end child marriage in America, states that, “nearly a quarter-million children as young as 12 were married in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010 – mostly girls wed to adult men.”
“Unchained At Last is the only nonprofit in the US dedicated to helping women and girls leave or avoid arranged/forced marriages and rebuild their lives. Unchained also is the only nonprofit in the US dedicated to creating social, policy and legal change to end forced and child marriage in America.”
I have had the unique opportunity to work hand and hand with Unchained in their amazing traveling fashion show, highlighting human trafficking in the US. Unchained is such a beautiful organization.
What are the Consequences?
Consequences of child marriage include not only higher rates of dropping out of school, but also higher rates of abuse. Girls who are forced to marry statistically experience horrible side effects. They feel like they have no options for divorce and in some places they might not have the option of divorce.
Girls who wed early are often isolated and have limited freedoms, often deprived of fundamental rights including health, education and safety. They may feel incredibly powerless, if someone could just, take them, how are they supposed to fight back.
As a child, a girl is neither emotionally, mentally, nor physically ready to become a wife and mother. To say she is ready is to deprive her of her voice, to wed her is to steal her autonomy. These girls are at extreme risk of dangerous pregnancy and childbirth complications, and can be exposed to HIV/AIDS early in life. These girls are often at a much higher rate of suffering domestic violence. The families of these girls and their new husbands are more likely to live in extreme poverty due to lack of access to education and economic opportunities. Not only does marriage take away her childhood, but also any opportunities for her future are destroyed.
On top of the extreme effects on the wed child comes the effect on communities, states and countries. Governmental systems which undervalue women and girls, undermine their voices, contribution to society and participation in education, will severely limit their own possibilities for growth, transformation and stability.
How Can I Help?
Great question. You can start by supporting organizations working to end child marriage in the US and around the world. We owe it to our children to support legislation which protects them.
Organizations like these include:
Unchained (mentioned above)
Want to help more? Start with education.
Educate yourself on the issues our country faces. Educate others on how to help. Most people don't even realize this is happening in our country. Most people think it only happens in India and Afghanistan, but as we have learned today, that is not the case.
Any rational human will hate the idea of child marriage. How can we, as a society stand idly by. How can we as individuals remain ignorant to the fact that our government hasn't done anything. I've included a list of current (November 2018) Senators and how to contact them in the 24 states that have no floor for child marriage. Please contact them today.
Because that's what's makes America great. When you see an injustice, you can do something about it! Tell the people who represent you that you care about the children in your state. Make this issue known! Your voice counts more than you know!
If you see your state below, you are living in a state which allows children under the age of 16 to be legally married. If that upsets you. Now's your chance. We JUST had midterms, its time for our newly appointed representatives to show what they can do!
Click To Contact Your Senator.
Indiana (Minimum age 15)
Kansas (Minimum age 15)
Massachusetts (no minimums listed, but recommends 12 for girls and 14 for boys!)
North Carolina (Minimum age 14)