Jonathan Black, “Advocates Are Fighting to Outlaw Adult Marriages to Minors,” American Bar Association Journal (January 2018). The American Bar Association examines the campaign to end child marriage in the United States, speaking with advocates, lawmakers, and survivors working to end the practice. The advocacy of groups such as the Tahirih Justice Center has led three states to limit marriage to legal adults, and aims to affect similar change in several more states in 2018. Read more.
“Lawmaker Wants to Set Minimum Age for Child Marriage in Commonwealth,” WLKY News (January 3, 2018). Kentucky lawmakers are working to set a minimum age for child marriage in the Commonwealth, which currently does not set a limit on how old a child must be to be married. The legislation, which would require to be at least 17 years old and prove employment and independence in order to marry, is expected to move to committee hearings by February. Read more.
Gareth Lightfoot, “Couple Admit Illegally trying to Take their Children Abroad after Being Caught at Airport,” Gazette Live (January 11, 2018). Two parents have admitted to violating a forced marriage protection order by attempting to take their children out of the country, on a flight from Newcastle to Dubai last year. The couple claimed to have misunderstood the order, issued in January 2016 to prevent a forced marriage from occurring abroad. Read more.
Zac Anderson, “Florida Likely to Ban Child Marriage,” Sarasota Herald Tribune (January 11, 2018). A bipartisan push by state lawmakers looks likely to end the practice of child marriage in Florida. Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto’s bill to raise the state’s minimum age of marriage to 18 cleared its final Senate committee by a unanimous vote, while a companion house bill has one more committee to clear. Current law allows children of any age to marry under a pregnancy exception, and older children to marry with parental consent. Read more.
Marco Ortiz, “Prosecutor: Leaders of ‘Religious’ Group Married to Own Children,” Good4Utah (January 12, 2018). Two men charged with child kidnapping in Utah also allegedly married each other’s young daughters. “Sam married and took as a wife John’s 8-year-old daughter,” said a Sanpete County attorney, “John took as a wife Sam’s 8-year old daughter. Then they both allegedly married their own 4-year old daughters.” The alleged marriages were not recognized by the state of Utah. Read more.
Lizzie Dearden, “‘There Was Blood Everywhere’: Survivor among Hundreds Stopped in FGM Crackdown at Heathrow Airport,” The Independent (January 13, 2018). British law enforcement coordinated in a crackdown on Forced Genital Mutilation and Cutting at Heathrow Airport called Operation Limelight. The operation questions travelers arriving from countries where the FGM/C and related practices such as forced marriage are common, with the aim of identifying and assisting survivors and individuals at risk. Findings from Operation Limelight were shared with the American FBI and Homeland Security, who launched “Operation Limelight USA” across American Airports after visiting the team at Heathrow. Read more.
Dirk Gilson, “Forced at 15,” Al Jazeera (January 2018). Forced into marriage at 15, Nafissa now travels around her home country of Niger as an ambassador in the fight against child marriage. Niger has the highest rate of child marriage in the world, with nearly 80% of girls married before age 18. Al Jazeera profiles the increasing numbers of Nigerien girls and women who are fighting back, seeking to end the practice and provide aid to their peers facing forced marriage. Read more.
Adam Sexton, “NH Lawmakers Again Consider Raising Minimum Marriage Age,” (January 16, 2018). New Hampshire lawmakers have revived efforts to change state law allowing girls as young as 13 to be married. A bill to raise the minimum age to 18 stalled last year, in part over questions about minor spouses married to military service members. Several bills have been filed on the issue, with lawmakers expecting to combine them into a single law which will raise the minimum age of marriage to 16. Read more.
Cassidy Swanson, “Sununu Voices Support for Bill to Raise Marriage Age in NH,” WMUR (January 24, 2018). New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu has come out in favor of a bill which would raise the minimum age of marriage in the state. In a letter to the House Children and Family Law Committee, Gov. Sununu encouraged legislation raising the minimum marriage age to 16, and requiring clear and convincing evidence for 16- and 17-year-olds to obtain a judge’s approval for marriage. Read more.
Morgan Loew, “Bill to End Child Marriage in Arizona Faces Obstacles,” AZ Family (January 25, 2018). While a child gets married every three days in Maricopa County, a bill to end child marriage in Arizona may not even be granted a hearing in the state senate. Under current state law there is no minimum age requirement for marriage. 16- and 17-year-olds only require a parent’s permission to marry, while anyone younger than 16 needs a judge’s approval. Read more.
Moni Basu, “Sherry Johnson Was Raped, Pregnant, and Married by 11. Now She’s Fighting to End Child Marriage in America,” CNN (January 30, 2018). Raped at 8 and pregnant at 10, Sherry Johnson was forced to marry her rapist at 11. Now, her unrelenting public pleas to end child marriage are being heard in Florida’s halls of power as she leads efforts to set the state’s minimum marriage age at 18. Read more.
Elizabeth Koh, “Raped at 8 and Forced to Wed at 11, This Woman Tries to End Child Marriage,” Miami Herald (February 1, 2018). For decades, Sherry Johnson remained silent about her repeated rapes and forced marriage as a young child. In 2012, spurred by a desire to make sure what she suffered would never happen to another child, she began pushing Florida lawmakers to close the loopholes that allowed her marriage to be recognized by the state. Her bill has now passed unanimously through Florida’s Senate, although its companion bill was amended to allow for some exceptions by a House committee. Read more.
“Florida: Child Marriage Ban Hits a Bump,” Human Rights Watch (February 5, 2018). After the Florida Senate unanimously passed a bill to end child marriage in the state, a House committee amended an identical bill to permit the marriage of pregnant 16- and 17-year-olds. The Florida Coalition to End Child Marriage has urged the House to remove this harmful amendment, and pass the bill as originally submitted. Read more.
Renate van der Zee, “The Hidden Scandal of U.S. Child Marriage,” The Guardian (February 6, 2018). Around the United States, survivors and advocates are working together to change state laws that allow for child marriage. The Guardian talks with the women leading this movement, including survivor-advocates from Florida and Kentucky, a girl scout in New Hampshire, and the head of an advocacy organization in New Jersey. Read more.
“There Are No States in the U.S. That Ban Child Marriage,” Vice News (February 9, 2018). An estimated 248,000 children were married in the United States between 2000 and 2010, with the majority of cases involving a young girl married to an older man. Despite these figures, no state has banned child marriage outright. Vice news met with state lawmakers and child marriage survivors to talk about their attempts to change current law. Read more.
Laura Bischoff, “Ohio Considers Raising Child Marriage Age after DDN Investigation,” Springfield News-Sun (February 13, 2018). Ohio state lawmakers have introduced a bill to set the state’s minimum marriage age at 17 for both boys and girls, and require 17-year-olds to obtain a court’s approval before marrying. Current law sets a minimum age of 16 for girls and 18 for boys, but allows for exceptions which leave the state with no effective age floor. Read more.
Brendan Farrington, “Florida House OKs Exceptions to Proposed Child Marriage Ban,” Associated Press (February 14, 2018). Following the Florida Senate’s unanimous passage of a bill to end child marriage in the state, the House carved out an exception to allow the marriage of pregnant 16- and 17-year-olds. Following an hour-long debate about whether to weaken the bill with the carve-out, Representatives passed the amended version by a vote of 108 to 2. Read more.
“Missouri Bill Advances to Set Limits on Child Marriages,” Associated Press (February 14, 2018). The Missouri House has advanced a bill, HB 1630, to ban all marriages of children under age 15 and require those aged 15-17 to obtain a judge’s approval before marrying. The bill also bans the marriage of anyone under age 17 to a partner aged 21 or older. Current law sets no absolute age floor. HB 1630 faces one more vote before being sent to the Senate. Read more.
David Adams, “Salvation Army Welcome Australian Initiative to Support Victims of Forced Marriage,” Sight Magazine (February 15, 2018). The Salvation Army has welcomed the Australian government’s announcement that survivors of forced marriage will have access to up to 200 days of support, regardless of whether they participate in criminal proceedings. The announcement of a 12-month trial of the initiative was made at a modern slavery seminar organized by the Salvation Army Freedom Partnership to End Modern Slavery and the Walk Free Foundation. Read more.
Laura Walters, “Marriage of Minors Bill Would Give Power to Courts, Not Parents, to Stop Forced Marriage,” Stuff.co.nz (February 15, 2018). Advocates who work with survivors of forced marriage have called for the New Zealand to raise its minimum marriage age to 18. The call was made during a committee hearing on New Zealand’s Marriage Amendment Bill, which would require 16- and 17-year-olds to gain a court’s approval to marry; current law requires only parental permission. Advocates argue that both current law and the proposed change leave children vulnerable to forced marriage. Read more.
Morgan Loew, “House Committee Passes Watered-Down Child Marriage Ban,” AZ Family.com (February 15, 2018). A bill to ban all marriage under 18 in Arizona was weakened by a House committee, and now allows marriage of 16- and 17-year-olds. Advocates are disappointed with the change, pointing out that in its amended form the bill would not protect the older teenagers who are most at risk of being forced into marriage by their parents. Read more.
Don Weber, “Bill Would Establish a New Minimum Age for Marriage in Kentucky,” Spectrum News (February 15, 2018). Senate Bill 48, which would set a minimum marriage age of 17 in Kentucky, was introduced during a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Judiciary. Donna Pollard, founder of a non-profit which supports survivors of sexual exploitation and herself as survivors of child marriage, testified in support of the bill alongside Jeanne Smoot of the Tahirih Justice Center. Read more.
Stephanie Nolasco, “Former Child Bride Who Helped Take Down Cult Leader Warren Jeffs Speaks out in New Documentary,” Fox News (February 19, 2018). At age 14, Elissa Wall was forced to marry her 19-year-old cousin by cult leader Warren Jeffs. She later became the lead witness in the trial which ultimately put Jeffs behind bars. Now 31, Wall tells her story as part of A&E’s documentary “Warren Jeffs: Prophet of Evil.” She spoke with Fox News about her ordeal. Read more.
Kaley Johnson, “50 Missouri Lawmakers Vote against Bill to Curb Child Marriage,” Belleville News-Democrat (February 20, 2018). The Missouri House of Representatives has passed a bill which seeks to curb child marriage in the state, despite 50 lawmakers voting against it. HB 1630, which bars the marriage of anyone under age 15, passed by a vote of 95 to 50. This represents a significant increase in opposition, compared to the single ‘no’ vote the bill received last year. Read more.
Paul Steinhauser, “Bill to Raise Marriage Age to 16 Clears NH House Committee, Lowers Age for Same-Sex Couples,” Concord Monitor (February 20, 2018). A bill to raise New Hampshire’s minimum marriage age to 16, the state’s legal age of sexual consent, passed through committee on a unanimous vote. A recent amendment, however, lowers the state’s minimum age for same-sex marriage from 18 to 16, matching the bill’s minimum age of heterosexual marriage and drawing criticism from advocates. Read more.
Lukas Mikelionis, “Child Marriage Protects Predators, Must End, Former Bride Tells Kentucky Lawmakers,” Fox News (February 23, 2018). Donna Pollard was pressured into a marriage to a violent 30-year-old man when she was only 16. Now, she is advocating for a bill raising the minimum age of marriage in Kentucky. The state’s current law, she says, gives predators the opportunity to hide their offenses behind a marriage license. Read more.
Sean Franklin, “Tennessee Lawmakers Want to Set Age Limit to Stop Child Marriage,” WBIR (February 27, 2018). A bill to raise Tennessee’s minimum marriage age to 18 passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 7-0 vote, and is now headed for the Senate floor. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jeff Yarbro, decried the fact that Tennessee’s weak laws have been targeted by predators from other states, who have brought children across the border to be married. Read more.
Heba Kanso, “‘Bittersweet Victory’ for Moroccan Women Facing Domestic Violence, Activists Say,” Reuters (February 28, 2018). A hotly-debated new law aimed at protecting women in Morocco against domestic violence does not go far enough, according activists. The new law criminalizes harassment, aggression, sexual exploitation, or ill treatment of women and specifically outlaws forced marriage and the expulsion of a spouse from the home, but fails to define domestic violence or to explicitly outlaw marital rape, and requires a woman to file criminal charges in order to receive a protection order. Read more.
“Rise in Reports of Honour Crime,” Yorkshire Evening Post (March 3, 2018). Police figures have revealed an four-fold rise in reports of honor-based abuse in West Yorkshire since 2015, and a tripling of forced marriage reports over the same time period. Authorities attribute the rise in reports to extensive public outreach, which has resulted in at-risk individuals feeling that they can safely report abuse and seek protection and services. Read more.
“Bill to Raise Marriage Age to 16 Heads to House” The Associated Press (March 4, 2018). The New Hampshire House of Representatives is set to vote on several bills related to child marriage, including one which would raise the state’s minimum age of marriage to 16 for both boys and girls and require a judge’s approval for 16- and 17-year-olds to marry. Another bill would ban a marriage between two individuals if sexual relations between them would have been a criminal act outside of marriage, and a third would allow married minors to enter into consumer contracts. Read more.
Linda Blackford, “After Weekend of National Shaming, Kentucky’s ‘Child Bride’ Bill to Move Forward,” Lexington Herald Leader (March 5, 2018). Following a weekend of backlash to the delay of a hearing for Kentucky’s Senate Bill 48, which would limit child marriage in the state, Sen. Whitney Westerfield has stated that the bill will get a hearing this week. The hearing had initially been delayed due to the conservative Kentucky Family Foundation’s concerns that the bill would allow 17-year-olds to marry without a parent’s permission. The group now plans to testify in support of SB 48, which was revised to require permission from both a judge and the minor’s parents. Read more.
Ana Ceballos, “Senate, House Reach Compromise on Controversial Child Marriage Bill,” Florida Politics (March 5, 2016). The Florida Senate unanimously approved a compromise bill to limit child marriage in the state, sending it back to the House for approval. The compromise bill would allow 17-year-olds to marry a partner no more than two years older, with parental permission. The bill’s sponsor celebrated the compromise bill’s removal of the pregnancy exception for 16- and 17-year-olds which was inserted by a House amendment, despite the new bill falling short of a complete ban on child marriage. Read more.
Joel Ebert, “Bill Making Underage Marriage Illegal Delayed Amid Concerns on Senate Floor,” Tennessean (March 5, 2018). Following one of the longest floor debates of the year, Tennessee Senator Jeff Yarbro opted to delay a vote on his bill to end child marriage in the state. Opposition came from some lawmakers who wanted to see exceptions to allow underage marriage in some circumstances, while supporters cited the need to prevent minors from being forced into marriages with older adults. Read more.
“Child Marriages Decline Globally, but Remain a Problem in the United States,” CBS News (March 6, 2018). While a new UNICEF report cites a global decline in rates of child marriage, the practice remains a significant problem around the world and including in the United States. CBS News speaks with Fraidy Reiss, founder of Unchained at Last, about the prevalence of child marriage in the United States and the state-by-state campaign to outlaw the practice. Watch here.
Jordan Buie, “House Republicans Effectively Kill Anti-Child Marriage Bill, Cite Possible Case against Gay Marriage,” Tennessean (March 7, 2018). Tennessee House Republicans sent a bill to end child marriage in the state into a summer study, effectively killing it, citing an obscure legal theory that passing the bill could have deterred the conservative Family Action Council’s future legal case against same-sex marriage. Rep. Darren Jernigan derided the decision, saying “the Family Action Council wants to continue to let 13-year-old get married in the state for the sake of their court case against same-sex couples. It’s disgraceful.” Read more.
Naomi Grimley, “The Girl Who Sabotaged her own Wedding,” BBC News (March 2018). Monika refused to become a child bride, and called advocates on her would-be wedding day to prevent her marriage from taking place. Certain she did the right thing, Monika wants her story told. “I am glad that my experience will be shared with others,” she says. “Maybe some other girl will learn from my case and she too can stop her child marriage. And if she can’t stop it, then I will even help her out myself!” Read more.
Marianne Dickie, “The Catch-22 of Forced Marriage and Migration,” Asia & the Pacific Policy Society (March 8, 2018). Women trafficked into marriage often remain hidden in Australia, facing a stark choice between suffering in silence or deportation. An individual forced into marriage cannot meet the Migration Act’s definition of “de facto partner” and “spouse,” both of which rest on the mutual consent of married parties. This in turn means that any visa issued on the basis of the marriage is invalid and may be cancelled, potentially leaving the woman without legal status in Australia. Read more.
Brian Mullahy, “New Utah Bill Aims to Stop Arranged Marriages of Underage Girls,” KUTV (March 9, 2018). On the final night of the legislative session, Utah lawmakers passed a House Bill 343 to make “threatening to subject a child to participate in a sexual relationship, regardless of whether that is part of a legal or cultural marriage” a sexual offense. Critics of the bill called it too vague, saying it could make it sexual abuse for apparent to consent to the marriage of their 16- or 17-year-old child. Read more.
Charlotte Anscombe, “More Vulnerable Male Adults are Victims of Forced Marriage than Previously Thought,” University of Nottingham (March 9, 2018). A new study from the University of Nottingham shows that many more men with learning disabilities are forced into marriage in the United Kingdom than previously thought. Researchers point to a lack of education about a 2014 law which criminalized forced marriage, with many families pushing vulnerable adults into marriages due to concerns over future care. Read more.
Brendan Farrington, “Florida Passes Bill to Ban Marriage of Anyone Under 17” The Associated Press (March 9, 2018). Sherry Johnson, who was forced to marry her rapist when she was just 11 years old, has worked for six years to ban child marriage in Florida. She is now being hailed as a hero, following the legislature’s passage of a bill prohibiting the marriage of anyone under age 17. The bill was a compromise between the Senate, which had passed a bill to end all child marriages, and the House, which wanted a younger age floor and pregnancy exception. It is expected to be signed by Governor Rick Scott. Read more.
Eric Adler, “Hundreds of Missouri’s 15-year-old Brides May Have Married their Rapists,” The Kansas City Star (March 12, 2018). Heather Strawn was 14 years old when her 24-year-old boyfriend, Aaron Seaton, plied her with alcohol and raped her inside his camper in Ashton, Idaho. Nine weeks pregnant on her 15th birthday, Heather drove 1,100 miles to Kansas City to marry Seaton, in the hopes that the child would be born in wedlock and the marriage would keep her boyfriend out of prison. She is one of the many 15-year-olds who have been married to their rapists in Missouri. Read more.
Andy Sher, “Bill Restricting Child Marriages Resurrected on Tennessee House Floor,” Times Free Press (March 12, 2018). An effort to restrict child marriage in Tennessee was revived after the state House voted without objection to suspend the rules, and place the bill back on a subcommittee which had previously voted to kill the legislation. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Darren Jernigan, said that he was able to speak with House Leader Glen Casada and reach a compromise modeled after legislation in Kentucky and Florida, which provide exceptions for 17-year-olds. Read more.
The Kansas City Star Editorial Board, “Missouri Should Make a Vow: Don’t Be a Destination for 15-year-old Brides,” The Kansas City Star (March 13, 2018). In this follow-up to the paper’s series on child marriage in Missouri, the Kansas City Star Editorial Board calls for serious reforms to the state’s marriage law. While a current bill to prohibit marriage under 15 is a step in the right direction, they call for far more sweeping reforms with a floor set at 16 or 17. “That Missouri has become nationally known as a destination spot for child brides,” they write, “is a course of concern and outright embarrassment.” Read more.
Scott Gross, “Delaware Bill Would Outlaw Underage Marriages,” Delaware Online (March 14, 2018). A bill introduced by Rep. Kim Williams would prohibit anyone under age 18 from marrying in Delaware. In explaining the need for this bill, Rep. Williams cited the fact that the state currently has no minimum age of marriage, and existing safeguards for minors make it easy for parents for force their children into marriage. Read more.
Megha Mohan, “I Want to Explain Arranged Marriage to White People,” BBC News (March 14, 2018). When designer Nashra Balagamwala produced a board game about arranged marriage, many news reports about her assumed that she was dead against the practice and linked to stories of brutal forced marriages and honor crimes. In reality Nashra has a far more nuanced position. Not all arranged marriages are forced, and one goal of her game is to explain to westerners the complex dynamics, good and bad, of arranged marriages. Read more.
Andy Sher, “Compromise on Tennessee Underage Marriage Bill Boosts Chances of Passage,” Times Free Press (March 15, 2018). Legislation limiting child marriage in Tennessee appears to have a clear path to the House floor after an amended version passed through the Civil Justice Subcommittee. The bill was amended by the Subcommittee to allow a 17-year-old to marry a partner now more than three years older through a legal process overseen by a judge who can declare them a legal adult. Read more.
Elizabeth Wynne Johnson, “Kentucky Votes to Ban Child Marriage,” NPR (March 16, 2018). Kentucky, which is currently one of 25 states which sets no minimum marriage age and has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the nation, has become a leader of the movement to end child marriage in the United States with the passage of Senate Bill 48. The bill prohibits all marriage under age 17 and requires approval from parents and a judge for 17-year-olds, and was celebrated by survivors and advocates as an important step in the national movement to protect children from the harms of early marriage. Read more.
Reid Wilson, “New Momentum Seen in Legislative Fight to Ban Child Marriage,” The Hill (March 19, 2018). Child marriage is legal across the United States, but legislators in several states are looking to change this with measures setting and raising minimum ages for obtaining a marriage license. Legislation to set a minimum age of 18 has been introduced in many states, no such bill has been passed yet. Bills are often amended to allow 16- or 17-year-olds to marry, which activist Fraidy Reiss says may address the worst outlier cases but miss the most significant population of at-risk children, girls aged 16 and 17. Read more.