Child Marriage is in the U.S. and We Are Fighting It State-by-State

eaa2f5cb2e9dfd91c86d37fd3586ddb5.jpeg - NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)—If you are an American, the words “child marriage” probably conjure up a faraway country such as the Ivory Coast.

You probably don’t think of it happening in the United States. I certainly didn’t until I read an op-ed by Fraidy Reiss last October in The New York Times. I was shocked and appalled to read it happens right here in my backyard, the New York metropolitan area. The majority of children wed are minor girls.

Nearly all 50 states, including New York, set 18 as the minimum age to wed, but every state permits exceptions to the laws.

Children, defined by United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as those under age 18, may wed with parental consent or with judicial approval. The lines between what one person deems parental consent and another views as coercion, however, are often blurred.

The laws don’t require further inquiry of a child to determine if she or he is being pressured into marriage. Reiss knows of at least one case where a girl sobbed openly at the clerk’s office while her parents signed her marriage license application. The clerk did not question the girl and indeed had no legal authority to intervene.

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