Child Marriage In America: The Alarming Numbers And Legal Struggles

( – In the United States between the years 2000 and 2018 approximately 300,000 teens and children were legally married. Each state sets its own legal age for marriage and only ten have set it at the age of 18. A group called Unchained at Last works to get women and girls out of arraigned marriages and is trying to work within each state to get the minimum of marriage to 18 years.

The majority of people under 18 who entered into marriage were between 16 and 17 years old but some were as young as ten. Females are far more likely to be entered into an arranged or underage marriage as they represent about 86% of the total. Unchained at Last says the majority of these girls were put into arranged marriages with adult men.

Up until the year 2017, no state had laws requiring people be 18 years old to marry but that has slowly been changing with Delaware becoming the first state to adopt minimum age legislation in 2018.

There are loopholes within the system that can allow for people younger than a state’s mandatory age requirement, whether it be 18 or 16 to get married. Some states waive the rule if the female is pregnant and no state has any restrictions on foreign spouses or fiancé visas.

Age requirement legislation often fails due to what politicians say are religious reasons. West Virginia, Wyoming, and New Jersey all had 18 year-old age minimums scuttled by politicians citing religious freedom.

Interim CEO and president of the International Center for Research on Women, Ann Warner, says that the religious freedom argument does not hold up because she sees these arranged marriages as contrary to basic human rights.

Opposition to age requirements does not only come from religious groups. Recently in California, which has no floor for age of consent, progressive groups have been the impediment. Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, and the Children’s Law Center have objected to proposed legislation saying it would be a hindrance on constitutional as well as reproductive rights.

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