In most U.S. states, a person must be at least 18 years old in order to consent to getting married. However, these age requirements can easily be set aside when certain legal “exceptions” apply, whether it’s a parent consenting to the marriage or a judge providing official judicial consent to the child marriage. These exceptions mean that, often, it is not a crime for an adult to marry, and potentially victimize, a minor.
A Tahirih study found that at least one-third of child marriages involve female children under the age of 15 marrying a male adult over the age of 21. Moreover, the study indicated that approximately 90 percent of underage spouses in Virginia are girls, while roughly 85 percent of underage spouses in Maryland are girls. This data suggests very troubling trends in terms of the gender dynamics involved in child marriages.
What is particularly shocking about the child marriage data in the U.S. is that most countries around the world currently require a person to be at least 18 years old before getting married. (Although the World Policy Center found that more than half of these countries do allow exceptions for minors to get married with parental consent.)
Passing Laws to Outlaw Child Marriages in New Jersey and Elsewhere in the U.S.
Although NJ lawmakers have introduced legislation to prohibit child marriages, it still remains legal for a minor to marry an adult under certain circumstances, such as when the child receives parental consent or judicial consent.
Child marriages are also currently legal in other states. For example, New York and Maryland have laws on the books that allow children to marry adults when an exception applies. Under current NY marriage laws, a child as young as 13 years old can get married with the approval of a judge, while 16-year-olds can marry if they obtain parental consent. Between 2000 and 2010, nearly 4,000 children were married in New York.
Like New Jersey and Virginia, these other states are also looking to change their retrograde laws that set aside marriage age limits, which are typically between 16 and 18 years of age. For instance, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo was reportedly “strongly supportive” of legislation that would end child marriages once and for all.
To learn more, access the BusinessInsider.com article, “Several States Are Trying to Outlaw a Taboo Marriage Practice.”
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