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 effect 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 limit how young a child may be married. The legislation, which would require minors to be at least 17 years old and to 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 with government specialists 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, which 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,” WMUR (January 16, 2018). New Hampshire lawmakers have revived efforts to change a 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.
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 on 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 for the 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, a survivor of child marriage and founder of a non-profit which supports survivors of sexual exploitation, 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 their elder, with parental permission. The bill’s sponsor celebrated the compromise bill’s removal of a pregnancy exception for 16- and 17-year-olds, 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 into a summer study, effectively killing it. They cited an obscure legal theory, holding 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 House Bill 343, making “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 a parent 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 17-year-olds to marry a partner no 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 to marry. Its passage 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. While 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 misses the most significant population of at-risk children, girls aged 16 and 17. Read more.
“Survivors of Child Marriages and Forced Marriages Speak Out,” Iris (March 20, 2018). Three women who survived child and forced marriages speak out about their experiences. Sara was forced into marriage at age 15, Naila at age 13, and Fraidy at age 19. Forced marriage can happen at any age, and can result from and lead to manipulation, communal pressure, coercion, blackmail, threats, or physical abuse. Watch here.
Nicole Rojas, “Knights of the Crystal Blade: What We Know about Doomsday Cult Leaders Accused of Child Bigamy,” Newsweek (March 22, 2018). Two Utah men stand accused of physically and sexually abusing children as part of a doomsday, fundamentalist Christian cult after they took each other’s daughters as child brides. The men led a small religious group called the Knights of the Crystal Blade, and were preparing for a “Muslim invasion” of the United States and the end of the world. They will be the first individuals charged under Utah’s child bigamy statute. Read more.
Eric Adler, “Missouri Seeks to Toughen Child Bride Law – But Still Let 15-year-olds Marry,” The Kansas City Star (March 23, 2018). According to a recent series by the Kansas City Star, Missouri has the weakest child marriage laws in the country and has become a destination for marrying minors. A bill currently working its way through the legislature seeks to curtail child marriage in the state, but is also the weakest reform bill yet in a national movement which has seen states including Virginia, Texas, New York, Florida, and Kentucky pass bills limiting the marriage of minors. Read more.
“Florida Gov. Signs Child Marriage Ban, Tax Cut Bill,” The Associated Press (March 23, 2018). Florida Governor Rick Scott signed 74 bills into law to end the legislative session, including a measure prohibiting all marriage under the age of 17. The final legislation was a compromise between the Senate and the House, as the former had sought to end all marriage under 18 while the latter sought a pregnancy exception for 16- and 17-year-olds. Read more.
Kanae Doi, “Opinion: Japan Can End Child Marriage at Home, and Help End It Abroad,” The Japan Times (March 30, 2018). Current Japanese law allows girls of 16 to marry with parental consent, while setting the minimum age at 18 for boys. A proposed revision of the Civil Code seeks to rectify this discrepancy by setting a minimum age of 18 for everyone, adding Japan to a growing list of countries who have outlawed child marriage. Government data showed that 1,357 girls aged 16 and 17 married in Japan in 2015. Read more.
“Fight to Ban Child Brides in American Samoa Not Over,” Radio New Zealand (April 3, 2018). American Samoa currently sets the minimum age of marriage at 18 for boys, but only 14 for girls. Representative Fialupe Fiaui Lutu’s bill aiming to address this discrepancy found strong support in the House, but ultimately faltered at its final reading in the Senate. She plans to reintroduce the bill in the next session, which begins in July. Read more.
“The Secret World of Child Marriages in America,” The Dr. Oz Show (April 3, 2018). Guest Trevicia Williams was only 14 years old when she was forced to marry an abusive 26-year-old man. She reveals how she was able to get help to divorce the man at 17 years old, and go on to get a degree, find a job, and advocate for a change to child marriage laws in Texas. Watch here.
Scott Dance, “Effort to Limit Teen Marriage in Maryland Failed amid Concerns from Abortion Rights, Women’s Groups,” The Baltimore Sun (April 12, 2018). A proposal to raise Maryland’s minimum age of marriage from 15 faltered after it was opposed by some women’s rights and pro-choice advocates, who worried that removing the ability of a young teen to marry takes away an option for stability and could lead to restrictions on abortion rights. Supporters of the bill pointed out that underage marriages do not add stability to a teen mother’s future, instead increasing chances of future poverty, and said that marriage should only occur when both parties are empowered to give their full and free consent, and stand on equal legal footing. Read more.
Christie Renick, “Arizona Sets Minimum Age for Marriage of Minors,” The Chronicle of Social Change (April 13, 2018). An Arizona bill to raise the state’s minimum marriage age to 16 has been signed into law. Under the new law, 16- and 17-year-olds to will be able to marry a spouse within three years of their own age if they are legally emancipated, or with a parent’s consent. The Tahirih Justice Center, which advocates for a minimum age of 18, recognized the bill as progress but pointed out in testimony the many dangers of allowing anyone to marry before they are legally an adult. Read more.
Mark Ballard, “Should 18 be the Minimum Age to Wed? State Legislators to Battle over Louisiana Marriage Laws,” The Advocate (April 14, 2018). The debate on the appropriate minimum marriage age has arrived in Louisiana, with the introduction of a bill to set the state’s age requirement at 18. Supporters of Senate Bill 463 point out that married minors face severe life consequences, from higher rates of divorce and abuse to being legally unable to leave the marriage on their own, while opponents worry about discouraging young people from marrying. It appears that the bill will likely settle on a minimum age lower than the 18 years which advocates have sought. Read more.
Jordan Buie, “Tennessee General Assembly Passes Ban on Marriage for Those under Age 17,” Tennessean (April 24, 2018). A bill to limit child marriage has cleared the Tennessee General Assembly, passing unanimously through the House and with only two votes against in the Senate. A bill originally introduced to raise the state’s minimum marriage age to 18 without exception was replaced by the current version, which sets a minimum age of 17, legally emancipates minors upon marriage, and limits 17-year-olds to marrying a party within four years of their own age. Read more.
Marie O’Halloran, “New Law Can Stop Domestic Abusers Texting and Phoning Victims,” The Irish Times (May 3, 2018). Landmark legislation to provide better protections to victims of domestic violence has passed through the Irish legislature, and is expected to be signed into law by President Higgins. The law makes sweeping changes to Ireland’s treatment of domestic violence, including by criminalizing forced marriage and coercive control, as well as repealing provisions that had previously allowed for marriage under age 18. Read more.
Matt Bittle, “Underage Marriage Ban Poised to Become Law,” Delaware State News (May 3, 2018). Delaware’s Senate chamber broke into applause following the unanimous passage of HB 337 which, with the signature of Governor Carney, will make Delaware the first state to completely ban child marriage. Some senators were hesitant about supporting the bill, including Sen. Dave Sokola, whose parents married before age 18. Sen. Sokola had “very mixed feelings,” he said, but “times have changed, and the world is a different place than it was 65 years ago.” Read more.
DJ McAneny, “First State Claims Another First: No More Child Marriages. Period.” WDEL 101.7 FM (May 9, 2018). The First State earned its moniker once again by becoming the first in the nation to officially end child marriage. The minimum age to marry in Delaware is now 18, period. The new law also allows courts to annul previous marriages entered by parties who were underage at the time of marriage and have not confirmed the marriage since reaching legal adulthood. Read more.
Natalie Gontcharova, “This Girl Scout Fought against Child Marriage – And Scored a Win,” Refinery 29 (May 14, 2018). Cassandra Levesque, and 18-year-old university freshman, was disturbed when she learned that 13-year-old girls could get married in her home state of New Hampshire. She dedicated her Girl Scout Gold Award project to the cause, and had been advocating with legislators for a year when she scored a victory on May 2, when the Senate voted unanimously to raise the state’s minimum marriage age to 16. Her campaign is over yet, though – Levesque wants to see the age raised to 18, and plans to keep fighting until child marriage is completely banned. Read more.
Lindsay Whitehurst, “Push against Underage Marriage in U.S. Coming to Utah,” The Associated Press (May 18, 2018). A campaign to end underage marriage in the United States is coming to Utah, where Rep. Angela Romero plans to introduce a bill raising the state’s minimum marriage age to 18. Current law allows children as young as 15 to marry and contains a marriage exception in its statutory rape laws, according to Jeanne Smoot of the Tahirih Justice Center. Utah Health Department data shows that 253 people under age 18, most of them girls, were married in 2010, the most recent year for which statewide figures are available. Read more.
Hannah Summers, “Birmingham Woman Guilty of Duping Daughter into Forced Marriage,” The Guardian (May 22, 2018). A woman from Birmingham has been found guilty of deceiving her teenage daughter into travelling to Pakistan and forcing her to marry a man nearly twice her age, in the first successful prosecution of its kind in England. The verdict was hailed as a landmark development in the fight against forced marriage, and was the first conviction secured after a survivor testified in court against her own family. Read more.
Brea Douglas, “Missouri Legislature Passes Bill to Make 16 the Age Minimum for Marriage,” Ozarks First (May 22, 2018). The Missouri legislature has passed a bill raising the state’s minimum marriage age to 16, and passed it along to the governor for signature. Reaction is mixed among advocates, many of whom feel that more could have been done to protect children. “The bill still falls short, because it does not require that a court look into the matter to ensure that there’s no evidence of abuse or coercion” said Linda Saturno, director of the Child Advocacy Center. Read more.
Jeremy Hobson, “Understanding the Full Extent of America’s Child Marriage Problem,” Here & Now (May 24, 2018). Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson speaks with Fraidy Reiss, founder and executive director of Unchained at Last, about the extent of child marriage in the United States. Legislators in many states have rejected or watered down legislation to end child marriage, with Delaware recently becoming the first state to completely prohibit marriage under age 18. Read more.
Susan K. Livio, “The Push to Ban Child Marriages in N.J. Just Stalled. Here’s Why.” NJ.com (May 24, 2018). A last-minute religious objection has derailed the final passage of a bill to end child marriage in New Jersey. Assemblyman Gary Schaer told reporters members of the orthodox Jewish community approached him to request religious exceptions to the bill. Speaker Craig Coughlin agreed to pull the bill from the voting session at Schaer’s request, scuttling the bipartisan measure’s almost-certain passage. Schaer said he would seek an amendment similar to that requested last year when then-governor Christie vetoed the bill, to allow a judge to approve marriages of 16- and 17-year-olds. Read more.
Hannah Summers, “Thousands Enslaved in Forced Marriages across UK, Investigation Finds,” The Guardian (May 28, 2018). New figures reveal the shocking extent of forced marriage in Britain, with tens of thousands of calls reporting forced marriages made to various government and non-profit agencies in the last three years. Some legal experts are calling for forced marriage cases to be tried under human trafficking statutes, allowing for easier convictions and harsher sentencing which may include compensation for survivors. Read more.
“Forced Marriage Plot Parents Found Guilty in First of its Kind Victim Rescue Case,” West Yorkshire Police (May 29, 2018). A Leeds couple has been convicted of attempting to force their daughter into marriage in Bangladesh, two years after her dramatic escape. “The greatest tribute in this case has to be with the victim,” said the detective who led the investigation. “I know she wants her case to show other victims that they can come forward to the authorities with confidence that they will be listened to and safeguarded.” Read more.
Elaine Aradillas, “Terrorized as Teens, Two Former Child Brides of an Apocalyptic Cult Speak out: ‘We’re Free,’” People (May 30, 2018). As young girls, Amy Eddy and Pebbles Rodriguez had no control of their lives as members of the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries. At ages 14 and 12, respectively, they were told they would marry the 62-year-old leader of the apocalyptic cult. The two girls lived abusive lives as Alamo’s child brides for about a decade, before being freed of their torture when he was arrested in 2008. Read more.
Rahila Gupta, “Prosecuting Forced Marriage is Satisfying – But Preventing it is Better Still,” New Statesman (May 30, 2018). Crimes of violence against women have unconscionably low rates of conviction in the UK, with only three successful forced marriage prosecutions since it was outlawed in 2014 and no successful prosecutions of female genital mutilation/cutting since its criminalization in 1985. While prosecution can be an important tool, it is far more important to provide individuals at risk with options to prevent marriages from happening in the first place, such as the UK’s Forced Marriage Protection Orders. Read more.
Isaac Davison, “Forced Marriage Bill Extended to Civil Unions and De Facto Relationships,” New Zealand Herald (May 31, 2018). A bill intended to protect 16- and 17-year-olds in New Zealand from forced marriage has been amended to address civil unions and de facto relationships as well. The bill will require teenagers to obtain consent from a Family Court judge before entering any legally-recognized relationship; current law allows them to do so with only parental consent. Read more.
Bridget Boakye, “Somali Senator Fights against Child Marriages in the U.S.,” Face 2 Face Africa (May 31, 2018). Ilhan Omar, who made history when she became the first Somali-American Muslim legislature in the U.S., is on a fight to end child marriages in her state. Omar describes herself as an intersectional feminist, and currently serves as the Director of Policy and Initiatives of the Women Organizing Women Network. As part of this work, she is seeking to end child marriage in Minnesota, where children as young as 16 may currently marry. Read more.
Nicholas Kristof, “Opinion: One Down, but 49 States Still Allow Child Brides,” The New York Times (June 1, 2018). Dawn Tyree was 11 years old when a family friend began to molest her. At 13, Dawn was pregnant. Her family decided that she would marry her 32-year-old rapist, covering up the rape with a wedding. Dawn became one of thousands of underage American girls married each year, often having their futures sacrificed to reduce embarrassment to their parents. Times may be changing, however, as Delaware last month became the first state to completely ban marriage under age 18. Read more.
Becky Little, “When a Millionaire Married a Teen and Sparked Opposition to U.S. Child Marriage,” History (June 6, 2018). Following the passage of a Delaware law making it the first state to completely prohibit marriage under age 18, History reflects on the 1923 marriage of Edward Browning, a 51-year-old New York real estate titan, to a 15-year-old student named Francis. Their marriage came at a time when Americans’ ideas about childhood were evolving, and sparked outrage in a way that previous similar marriages had not. Read more.
Christian Hetrick, “New Jersey Assembly Passes Bill Banning Child Marriages,” Observer (June 7, 2018). The New Jersey Assembly has given final legislative approval to a bill banning marriage under age 18, with no exceptions. The bipartisan measure now goes to the desk of Governor Phil Murphy for signature. Should he sign, New Jersey will become the second state to ban all marriages under age 18 after Delaware did so in May. Read more.
Rachael Clawson, “If People with Learning Disabilities Can’t Consent to Marry, They’re at Risk of Forced Marriage,” The Conversation (June 11, 2018). A recent landmark case saw a mother convicted of forcing her daughter into marriage, the first case of its kind in England. The fact that her daughter had a learning disability was only briefly mentioned in press coverage of the case. Statistics from the government’s Forced Marriage Unit show a rise in the number of reports of people with learning disabilities facing forced marriage, from 53 cases in 2010 to 125 in 2017, approximately 10% of all reported cases. Read more.
Natalie Gil, “‘He Raped Me on Our Wedding Night:’ A Forced Marriage Survivor Tells Her Story,” Refinery 29 (June 15, 2018). When Sunny was young, she was forced to marry a man with mental disabilities. Now a 39-year-old campaigner and author of a book on her experience, she shared the story of her marriage with Refinery 29. “To any woman currently experiencing what I’ve been through, I’d say reach out and get help,” she said. “You should be able to choose your own life partner because your life is yours, and you are not an object.” Read more.
Todd Bookman, “Sununu Signs Bill Raising Marriage Age in NH,” New Hampshire Public Radio (June 18, 2018). New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu has signed into law a bipartisan bill raising the state’s minimum marriage age to 16. Governor Sununu also signed related legislation prohibiting judges from granting permission for a marriage involving a minor if sexual relations between the two parties would be considered sexual assault outside of marriage, as well as a third bill prohibiting judges from approving a child’s marriage without clear and convincing evidence that the marriage is in the child’s best interest. Read more.
Nazia Parveen, “South Yorkshire Man Wins Protection Order in Forced Marriage First,” The Guardian (June 20, 2018). A British teenager who had been promised into marriage when he was five years old has become the first male in South Yorkshire to be granted a forced marriage protection order. The 19-year-old boy and his three younger siblings all received protection, after he had received threats for not complying with the pre-arranged marriage. Read more.
Jay Edwards, “Gov. Murphy Signs Law Banning Underage Marriage,” WRNJ Radio (June 23, 2018). New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill prohibiting anyone under age 18 from marrying or entering a civil union. New Jersey is now the second state to completely ban child marriage, after Delaware did so in May of this year. Research has shown that women who married before age 18 suffer lifelong negative consequences. Read more.
Jessica Testa, “Child Marriage Is Legal in 48 States. These Women Are Asking Why.” Buzzfeed News (June 23, 2018). While at least 20 state legislatures have considered whether to ban marriage under age 18 in the last two years, only two have actually done it. With bills recently signed to end child marriage in both Delaware and New Jersey, the next two states to consider such bans are Ohio and Pennsylvania, with others expected to introduce new bills or revisit old ones in 2019. Read more.
Isabella Alves, “Idaho Has Some of the Highest Rates of Child Marriage in the Country,” Post Register (June 23, 2018). Shirley Perez was raped at age 12. At 13 she was married to her 39-year-old rapist, and was abused for 12 years before finally obtaining a divorce. This occurred in the 1960s in Idaho, under laws still in place today. The national movement to end child marriage has not yet taken hold in Idaho, despite the state having one of the country’s highest rates of marriage under age 18. Read more.
Toni Hassan, “Opinion: Tricked into Leaving Australia and Struggling to Get Back,” The Sydney Morning Herald (June 24, 2018). Fatima was tricked by her parents into leaving Australia for a forced marriage, but was able to return after seeking help from My Blue Sky. To help other women and girls like her, Australian politicians are aiming to introduce civil protections to supplement the existing criminal statute. To address the root of the problem, Ms. Hassan writes, we must address the toxic masculinity that allows men, and women, to believe that a woman’s role is to obey rather than to make her own decisions. Read more.
Marilyn Icsman, “Ohio Bill Aims to End Child Marriage; Makes 18 Minimum Age for Marriage,” Cincinnati Enquirer (June 28, 2018). A new bill passed by the Ohio House would prohibit children under age 18 from marrying, unless they receive an exception from a juvenile court. The exception would only be available to 17-year-olds marrying a partner no more than four years older than themselves. Current state law allows exceptions for children of any age to marry under certain circumstances. The bill now moves on for consideration by the Senate. Read more.
Daniele Selby, “This American Girl Was Forced to Marry a Stranger in a Religious ‘Cult’ at Age 15,” Global Citizen (June 28, 2018). Sara Tasneem was devastated when she found out that she was pregnant with her second child. After being married off to a stranger at age 15 and giving birth to her first child at 16, Sara felt further trapped in a marriage she never wanted when she found out she was pregnant again at 19. Even after obtaining a divorce in her twenties, Sara faced an uphill battle in establishing a life for herself. Read more.
Lauren Sausser, “In SC, There’ve Been 7,000 Child Brides in 20 Years,” The Associated Press (July 6, 2018). Legal loopholes in South Carolina have led to nearly 7,000 cases of child marriage, involving girls as young as 12. A state law established in 1962 has allowed these marriages to take place, as it sets no minimum age for marriage if the bride is pregnant and a parent consents. Although child marriages have been decreasing over the decades, some judges still grant marriage licenses to underage applicants. Read more.
Stephanie Richards, “New SA Laws to Crack down on Domestic Violence,” In Daily (July 9, 2018). In South Australia, legislators have expanded the definition of abuse to include forced marriage. The Attorney General has stated that forced marriage should be treated with the same gravity with which other domestic violence is treated, to ensure that women are protected. The penalty for repeated breaches of intervention orders will be doubled under the new law. Read more.
“American Samoa Minimum Marriage Bill is Back,” Radio New Zealand (July 11, 2018). Representative Fialupe Fiaui Lutu has reintroduced her bill aiming to increase the minimum age of marriage for girls in American Samoa from 14 to 18. The bill had been approved in the House during last year’s legislative session, but failed in the Senate in part over a belief that families should be able to marry off pregnant teenage daughters. Read more.
Laura Hallas, “She Was Forced into Child Marriage in Texas. Now She Wants to End the Pain for Others,” Dallas News (July 11, 2018). Dr. Trevicia Williams speaks with Dallas Morning News about her experience as a child bride in Texas. Married at age 14 to a 26-year-old man from her church, she had her first child at the age of 15. During her marriage she experienced domestic violence and household instability which led to homelessness. Williams is now a motivational speaker and fights for laws preventing child marriage by raising state minimum marriage ages to 18. Read more.
Jack Suntrup, “Missouri is Known as a Haven for Child Marriages. A New Law Aims to Change That.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch (July 13, 2018). A bill newly signed into law in Missouri will set the state’s minimum marriage age at 16, and prohibit anyone over age 21 form marrying a minor. The state previously had no minimum age of marriage, allowing 7,342 minors to marry between 2000 and 2014 according to the Tahirih Justice Center. Read more.
Mike Lockely, “The Harrowing Story of 14-yr Old Destined for Oxford- Before Being Force into Marriage,” Birmingham Mail (July 15, 2018). Hawaa was only 14 when she was taken abroad and forced to marry a man 16 years her elder. He raped her on their wedding night, and held her against her will for years before she was finally able to escape and obtain a divorce 13 years later. Now 42 and living in Wolverhampton, Hawaa has written a book about her experience entitled When a Bulbal Sings. She hopes that the book will raise awareness about the harms of child marriage. Read more.
Harris Whitbeck, “Honduras Outlaws Child Marriage But It Could Be a Cultural Challenge,” CGTN America (July 15, 2018). A new law in Honduras raises the country’s minimum age of marriage from 16 to 18. The law faces cultural challenges, however, as child marriage has long been seen as a route out of poverty for young girls in the country. Activists see the new legislation as a step in the right direction, but know that outreach, education, and economic empowerment will also be needed to end child marriage. Read more.
Natasha Wyrnarczyk, “I Was a Victim of Forced Marriage, but I Don’t Blame My Husband for What Happened,” BBC (July 16, 2018). During her upbringing in the UK, Anusha always knew that one day she would be forced to marry someone she hardly knew. At age 19 her family took her abroad to begin the process of finding her a husband, eventually forcing her to marry a man who seemed caring at first but began abusing Anusha immediately after their wedding. Anusha was eventually able to obtain a divorce, and is now back in the UK with her daughter. “I’ve promised myself my daughter will never be treated like an object,” Anusha says. “I want her to know she is a human being with her own mind.” Read more.
Lindsay Graham, “Revolution: The Independent Woman,” American History Tellers Podcast (July 18, 2018). In 1794 Margaret Moncrieffe-Coghlan published a memoir that included her interactions with American Revolutionary figures such as George Washington and Aaron Burr, as well as her forced marriage to a British soldier when she was a teenager. The Memoirs of Mrs. Coghlan was celebrated in its time for Margaret’s powerful arguments against forced marriage, and is today seen as an example of how the Enlightenment ideals that inspired American independence also began to change the roles of women in American society. Listen here.