Dartunorro Clark, “She Was an American Child Bride. Now, Genevieve is Fighting to Stop it from Happening to Others,” NBC News (August 12, 2019). On a spring morning in 1995, 15-year-old Genevieve was married to a 43-year-old man in Jackson, Mississippi. The man had taken her across the country in a borrowed recreational vehicle, knowing that the marriage would be allowed in Mississippi despite being illegal in their home state. Genevieve is one of thousands of girls married under age 18 in the United States, and has become one of many survivor advocates calling for reforms to end child marriage across the country. Read more.
“Massachusetts Woman Recalls Moment She Was Forced into Marriage at Age 16,” Western Mass News (August 9, 2019). Tammy Monteiro married at age 16 in Massachusetts, after her mother signed off on her marriage. She speaks with Western Mass News about her experience, and about a bill pending in the Massachusetts legislature that would end child marriage in the state. The bill has passed the state Senate, and awaits a hearing before the Joint Judiciary Committee. Watch here.
Katelyn Ferral, “Stolen Childhoods: Women Allege They Were Sexually Abused as Kids at Calvary Gospel Church in Madison,” The Capitol Times (August 7, 2019). A Pentecostal church in Madison, Wisconsin is accused of concealing sexual assault among its congregants for decades, including cases of young girls being groomed, abused, and later married by older men. For Rebecca, the grooming started at age 10 with her 27-year-old Sunday school teacher flirting with her in class. The flirtation turned into sexual abuse when Rebecca was 12, and he raped her for the first time when she was 14. Before each rape, the man would make Rebecca kneel on the floor with him to recite Psalm 51 – in which David asks God for forgiveness after committing adultery. When she turned 18 Rebecca decided to marry the man, believing that this is what she needed to do to avoid the sin of extramarital sex. Read more.
“Lebanese Women Want to Stop Child Marriages,” Al Bawaba (August 4, 2019). Survivors of child marriage are leading the way as a movement to end child marriage in Lebanon gathers steam. Rawda and Fausiya, two such survivors, have joined several demonstrations and community meetings on the subject over the past two years, and in December appeared with other survivors to advocate for reform in a closed session of Parliament. Three draft laws have been submitted to the Lebanese Parliament to address the issue since 2017, but thus far none have advanced out of committee. Read more.
Neal Keeling, “She Lived on the Streets after Escaping a Forced Wedding – Now a Billionaire Has Changed Her Life,” Manchester Evening News (August 4, 2019). When she was 17, Kat ran away from home to avoid a forced marriage to a much older man. By age 24, she had experienced homelessness, survived several suicide attempts, and spent years in various refuges and hostels. Kat now works as a paralegal and is studying to become a real estate lawyer, is marrying a partner of her choice, and recently won a brand new luxury apartment in a contest for community advocates. She plans to use her new security for good, assisting individuals experiencing homelessness. “I am in a unique position,” she says. “I have experienced the rawness of homelessness, and now I can help.” Read more.
Annabel Murphy, “Forced Marriage Help: What Is a Marriage Protection Order?” The Sun (July 31, 2019). Forced marriage protection orders were thrust into the spotlight by British media when Princess Haya, wife of the billionaire ruler of Dubai, requested an order for one of her children. The Sun explains what exactly is a forced marriage protection order, who can obtain one, and why has Princess Haya requested one for her child. Read more.
Ivana Kottasova, Livvy Doherty, and Cristiana Moisescu, “Princess Haya, Dubai Ruler’s Wife, Seeks Court Order to Prevent Child’s Forced Marriage,” CNN (July 31, 2019). Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, wife of the billionaire ruler of Dubai, has applied to a London court for an order to prevent one of her children from being forced into marriage. Princess haya has also requested that her children be made wards of the court, and a non-molestation order for herself. The Sheikh opposes the applications and has asked the court to return the children to him in Dubai. Princess Haya is the third woman to flee the Sheikh’s court – two of his daughters have also previously attempted to flee the country. Read more.
Jasmine Brown, “Child Brides in the U.S. Share Stories of Exploitation, Learning to Become a Wife: ‘Everything Changed. I Wasn’t Me Anymore.’” Nightline (July 31, 2019). For hundreds of thousands of young girls across the United States, their wedding is a far cry from “happily ever after.” Over the course of a year-long investigation, Nightline traveled the country speaking with experts and survivors of child marriage in the United States. Read more.
Wallis Watkins, “New Law Restricts Age for Marriage in Louisiana,” New Orleans Public Radio (July 30, 2019). A new law taking effect in August will limit child marriage in Louisiana, setting a minimum marriage age of 16 and prohibiting any minor from marrying someone more than three years their elder. Morgan Lamandre, legal director with Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response (STAR), explains why the new law is needed and how it made its way through the state legislature. Prior to the new law, Louisiana had no minimum marriage age and collected only sparse data on marriage under age 18. Read more.
Carolyn Presutti, “United States: ‘I Was Excited More for the Future…Than I Was for the Present,” VOA News (July, 2019). When Ashley found out she was pregnant at just 15, she and her 18-year-old boyfriend discussed whether they should get married. Before they reached any decision, however, Ashley’s family intervened. Ashley’s aunt pulled her off the school bus one morning, took her to the courthouse to get the marriage license, and then brought her to a preacher’s house to have the ceremony performed. Read more.
Carolyn Presutti, “United States: ‘It is What it is,’” VOA News (July, 2019). Katie and Ashley both married underage, after becoming pregnant with an adult partner. While Katie remains married 8 years later, Ashley separated from her husband and both regret having married so young, and missing out on childhood. “I should have waited,” Katie says. “You really do need to be 18, in my opinion. You need to be grown up.” Read more.
Eva Mazrieva et al. “The Worth of a Girl,” VOA News (July, 2019). Voice of America examines child marriage from a global perspective, speaking with 16 survivors of child marriage from 15 countries – including two from the United States. They approach the issue from an economic perspective, asking what the worth of a girl is, and what does it cost girls, families, and societies to marry before adulthood. Read more.
Colin A. Young, “Mass. Senate Votes to Ban Under-18 Marriages,” Daily Hampshire Gazette (July 26, 2019). The Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed a bill to prohibit all marriage under age 18, sending the bill along for a final vote in the state’s House of Representatives. The bill’s chief sponsor, Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler, shared that 1,231 minors had married in the state between 2000 and 2016. She also shared the story of Tammy Monteiro, a survivor of child marriage who had previously testified in support of the bill before the Committee on Children and Families. Read more.
“The Trailblazer Who’s Changing Child Marriage Laws,” Red Table Talk (July 3, 2019). Sherry Johnson was just 11 years old when she was forced to marry a 20-year-old man, but she didn’t let that define her life. Sherry is now a forceful advocate who is tirelessly working to change laws across the United States that allow child marriages to occur. Watch here.
“Children Forced into Marriage: A National Disgrace,” Red Table Talk (July 1, 2019). In 48 states, children under age 18 can still be legally married. Two brave survivors of child marriage share the harrowing details of how they were forced to marry older men, and why the laws that allow this to occur need to be changed. Watch here.
Brittany Keogh, “Forced Marriage in NZ: Lack of Statistics ‘Disappointing’ after Government Vowed Action,” Stuff (June 27, 2019). Despite a 2012 commitment to tackle the issue of forced marriage, the government of New Zealand is unable to point to any steps taken to address or even investigate the problem. Disappointed by the government’s inaction, advocates are calling for authorities to keep better records of reported forced marriages and to make good on their 2012 promise. Read more.
Stephanie Balloo, “They Beat Me Neck Down so They Wouldn’t Be Visible-Woman Speaks out about Her Domestic Abuse Horror,” Birmingham Live (June 25, 2019). A survivor of horrendous family violence, including two forced marriages, speaks out about her experience of sever abuse the age of five until her early 20’s. She encourages other survivors to do the same: “Let’s talk about the things that have been happening behind closed doors for years and years and generations.” Read more.
Dartunorro Clark, “States across the Country Take Unprecedented Action to Save Child Brides,” NBC News (June 24, 2019). Pennsylvania may be the third state to ban marriage under the age of 18 with no exceptions—joining Delaware and New Jersey. Tahirih’s Jeanne Smoot attributes the movement’s growing momentum to the courageous survivors who have come forward to share their stories and advocate for reform. While significant progress has been made, the patchwork of protections means that until all states end child marriage, girls across the country will be vulnerable to the laws of the weakest states – even if their home states have passed protections. Read more.
“Nasreen Sheikh: From an Unremarkable Birth, to a Remarkable Life,” Women’s News (June 24, 2019). From an early age, Nasreen Sheikh was a child laborer earning only $2 per day in rural Nepal. When she turned 21, her family arranged a forced marriage for her. With the help of a kind stranger, she learned to read and seize her destiny – escaping both the sweatshop and her forced marriage. Nasreen now runs a sewing collective that serves as both an alternative to sweatshops and a means for other Nepali women and girls to escape forced and unhealthy marriages. Read more.
Hiroaki Wada, “329 Human Trafficking Victims to Japan Supported Back Home over 14 Years: UN Group,” Mainichi (June 20, 2019). Over 300 people have received assistance in returning to their home countries after having been trafficked in Japan, according to figures compiled by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Filipinos made up the largest portion of those affected, with 149 having received assistance. In many cases involving Filipinos, the survivor had been forced to marry a Japanese national to obtain a spousal visa, enabling them to legally remain in the country while their perpetrator forced them into long hours of unpaid labor. Read more.
Gabriella Swerling, “Father Faces Jail for Mental Abuse of His Daughters,” The Telegraph (June 18, 2019). Following years of activism by women’s rights groups, the United Kingdom criminalized coercive control in in December, 2015. A father and son now face up to five years in prison after having been found guilty under the new law, after psychologically abusing the women in their family. Read more.
Brittany Keogh, “Child Marriage in NZ: Teenage Brides, Grooms Given Visas to Live with NZ-based Spouses,” Stuff (June 7, 2019). Immigration officials in New Zealand have approved more than 20 partnership visas for children in the past decade. Family court judges are required to investigate possible coercion when 16- and 17-year-olds marry within New Zealand, but for children married abroad there is no such safeguard. Read more.
“Decree Bans Marriage for Children under 18, Eliminates Exception,” Mexico News Daily (June 5, 2019). The Mexican government has banned child marriage in 31 of the country’s 32 states, with a federal decree annulling laws that had previously allowed local authorities and families to provide consent to marriage under age 18. Prior to the decree, many states allowed boys as young as 16 and girls as young as 14 to marry. The National System for Protection of Children and Adolescents (Sipinna) has been advocating for a ban on child marriage since its creation in 2015, and heralded the decree as a major victory for the protection of children’s rights. Read more.
Holly N.S. White, “Why We’re Letting Americans Vote, Marry and Drink Far Too Young,” The Washington Post (May 29, 2019). Holly N.S. White, author of a new book on the development of the idea of childhood in early nineteenth century America, argues that current U.S. laws setting restrictions based on age alone are outdated. While we now know that brains don’t reach full maturity until age 25, U.S. laws allow individuals to drink, smoke, vote, and marry much younger. Read more.
Drew Marine, “Minimum Marriage Age Could Soon Be Set at 16 Years Old,” KPLC News 7, (May 29, 2019). Louisiana currently has no minimum age for marriage, an issue the legislature is looking to resolve. Senate Bill 172 would set a minimum age of 16, and require 16- and 17-year-olds to get permission from their parents and a judge before marrying. Senator Yvette Coombs, the bill’s sponsor, initially introduced a bill to set the minimum age of 18, but fell back on a floor of 16 when she faced resistance from other legislators. Read more.
Anastasia Moloney, “‘Black Widow’ Gangs Warned after El Salvador Forced Marriage Bust,” Reuters (May 29, 2019). Violeta Olivares, a state prosecutor who heads El Salvador’s anti-human trafficking unit, won a landmark conviction of seven gang members who forced women into marriages. Once married, the gangs forced the women to murder their husbands, so they could collect the life insurance payout. The convictions have exposed the role of El Salvador’s powerful street gangs in forced marriage, and the extreme violence to which their victims are subjected. Read more.
Jamie Grierson, “Forced Marriage Unit Reports Spike in Cases as Awareness Rises,” The Guardian (May 24, 2019). The U.K.’s Forced Marriage Unit saw a 47% increase in reported cases of forced marriage in 2018, according to new data released by the government. Officials note that the increase in reports does not necessarily indicate an increase in prevalence, but rather an increased awareness of the crime thanks in part to media coverage of high-profile prosecutions last year. A third of cases reported last year involved a child under age 18, with 18% involving children under 15. Read more.
“Nevada – Bill Deadline,” The Associated Press (May 24, 2019). A bill to ban child marriage in Nevada is among those awaiting final approval, as the state’s legislative session comes to a close. AB 139 would end child marriage in the state by setting a minimum marriage age of 18, though the bill’s sponsor believes a carve-out allowing some 17-year-olds may be necessary for the bill to advance out of the Senate. The expected amendment would require all 17-year-olds to go before a judge before being allowed to marry, and also include a residency requirement that would prevent children from being brought to Nevada from other states for marriage. Read more.
Megan Palin, “Shocking Child Rape Loophole ‘Put an End to My Childhood,’” News.com.au (May 18, 2019). Tina and Donna, two survivors of child marriage in the United States, speak about the years of abuse they suffered thanks to state laws that allow children to be married across the country. A movement to reform these laws has taken hold, however, largely thanks to the advocacy of survivors. Read more.
Aaron Walawalkar, “U.K. Is ‘Out of Sync’ with Commitment to End Child Marriage, Tory MP Says,” RightsInfo (May 16, 2019). Member of Parliament Pauline Latham says that The U.K. government is failing to meet its international human rights commitments by allowing people aged 16 and 17 to get married. This week at a Westminster Hall debate, she called for the minimum age for marriage and civil partnership to be raised to 18. Current law prohibits marriage under age 16, and requires nothing more than parental permission for 16- and 17-year-olds to marry. Read more.
“Bipartisan Bill to End Child Marriage Moves out of PA Committee,” Herald Mail Media (May 14, 2019). A Pennsylvania bill that seeks to set the minimum marriage age to 18 was approved by the House Judiciary Committee and now can be considered by the full House of Representatives. Pennsylvania does currently have a minimum age of marriage; current law allows a marriage license to be issued to any applicant younger than 16 with court approval, and to a minor applicant older than 16 with the consent of a parent or guardian. Read more.
Tamara Wolk, “No More Marrying At 16 In Georgia,” Northwest Georgia News (May 10, 2019). On May 6, Gov. Brian Kemp signed HB 228, which bans marriage of anyone under the age of 17 and provides safeguards that make it tougher to marry at 17. According to the new law, 17-year-olds must be emancipated (granted the legal rights of an adult) before marriage, and cannot marry anyone more than four years their elder. Required premarital education will include instruction on the potential risks of marrying young, including but not limited to high divorce rates, increased rates of non-completion of education, greater likelihood of poverty, and increased vulnerability to various medical and mental health problems. Read more.
Martyna Żuchowska, “The Forgotten Crime of Forced Marriage,” 30 Million to None (April 29, 2019). Since forced marriage was criminalized in Australia in 2013, only a handful of cases have actually been brought to the courtroom. Australian law criminalizes the person who causes someone to enter a forced marriage, as well as the non-victim partner for being part of a forced marriage. Read more.
Jacob Ogles, “Is Florida Law Template for Stopping Child Marriages?” Florida Politics (April 25, 2019). Last year the Florida Legislature passed a measure limiting child marriage by setting minimum age of 17, and requiring that 17-year-olds marry a partner no more than two years their elder. Since the law went into effect, child marriages in the state dropped substantially from 125 between July and December of 2017 to just 48 during the equivalent period in 2018. Read more.
Stephanie Nolasco, “Former Child Bride Recalls Marrying Her Rapist at Age 13 in Doc: ‘This is a Human Rights Abuse Issue,’” Fox News (April 25, 2019). Dawn was just 13 when she married her rapist, then 32. Dawn had kept the abuse a secret since her abuser began raping her at age nine, but wasn’t able to hid it any longer when she became pregnant. Rather than going to the police, Dawn’s parents convinced her that marriage was the right move. Dawn and other survivors of child marriage in the United States shared their stories in “I Was a Child Bride: The Untold Story,” an A&E Networks documentary. Read more.
James Hitchings-Hales, “I Ran Away from Home to Escape a Forced Marriage. After My Sister Died, I Fought to Change the Law in Britain,” Global Citizen (April 23, 2019). Jasvinder Sanghera ran away from her home at age 16 to escape a forced marriage, which led to her family disowning her. Her younger sister, however, was unable to escape her own forced marriage and ultimately died by suicide. Sanghera founded the award-winning charity Karma Nirvana, a charity that supports victims and survivors of honor-based abuse and forced marriages, in her sister’s name. Read more.
Bill Dentzer and Colton Lochhead, “80 Plus Bills Keep Nevada Lawmakers Busy During Floor Sessions,” Las Vegas Review Journal (April 16, 2019). Lawmakers in the Nevada Senate and Assembly took up more than 80 bills in their busiest floor sessions to date. Assembly Bill 139, a bill raising the state’s minimum marriage age to 18, passed the Assembly on a 32-8 bipartisan vote. Current law allows 16- and 17-year-olds to marry with parental consent, and children under age 16 can be married with the approval of a parent and judge. Read more.
Daphne Bramham, “15 Years Later Polygamist Father Awaits Verdict for Child Trafficking,” Vancouver Sun (April 16, 2019). Fifteen years ago, James Oler took his 15-year-old daughter across the Canada-U.S. border to be married off in Utah. In return, he received a 15-year-old bride of his own. Oler now awaits the verdict of his trial for child trafficking in the British Columbia Supreme Court. He has already been stripped of his five wives and 24 children, and could be imprisoned for five years if found guilty. Read more.
Taylor Luck, “Jordan Raises ‘Exceptional’ Marriage Age to 16,” The National (April 9, 2019). Jordan’s parliament has voted to raise the minimum age of marriage in “exceptional” cases from 15 to 16 in a move that has been seen as an important step towards reducing child marriage rates in the country .The minimum age for marriage in Jordan is 18, but a judge can approve the marriage of a minor under certain circumstances. The move has been welcomed by women’s rights activists, who hope it is the first step toward phasing out the judicial approval exception altogether. Read more.
Samantha Wohlfeil, “Idaho Prides Itself on Personal Freedoms, but One Child Bride Explains How Her Parent’s Freedom Cost Her Dearly,” Inlander (March 28, 2019). Angel’s parents forced her to marry her boyfriend when she was just 13, and she suffered years of abuse before finally escaping. Now 27, Angel was disappointed that her home state of Idaho voted against a reform to its minimum marriage age, despite having the highest rate of child marriage in the country. While legislators opposing the reform cited concerns about interfering with parents’ freedom, Angel wishes she could explain how those freedoms come at a price. “The freedom of parents to do whatever they want with their kids means their kids have no freedom if their parents don’t want them to, and that was me.” Read more.
Gracie Bonds Staples, “Why It’s about Time That Georgia Takes a Closer Look at Child Marriage,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (March 26, 2019). Reporter Gracie Staples argues that House Bill 228, which aims to end child marriage in Georgia, is just as important as other, higher-profile bills moving through the legislature this session. Representative Andrew Welch introduced the bill after meeting with Jeanne Smoot of the Tahirih Justice Center, and has successfully shepherded the measure through the state House and into the Senate. Should it become law, the Georgia bill would limit marriage to adults age 18 and older, or 17-year-olds granted the legal rights of an adult through a special court proceeding. Read more.
Christian M. Wade, “Child Advocates Seek to Raise Legal Age to Marry,” The Salem News (March 26, 2019). Tammy Monteiro was forced to marry at age 16, and suffered years of abuse before she was able to leave her marriage. She gave compelling testimony at a recent legislative hearing, in support of a bill that would ban child marriage in Massachusetts by setting the state’s minimum marriage age at 18. Read more.
Charles Duncan, “Child Bride from South Carolina Featured in British Documentary Airing Friday,” Charlotte Observer (March 21, 2019). A new BBC documentary focusing on the laws that allow for child marriages to occur across the United States features Keri, a South Carolina woman who was 15 when she married a 24-year-old man. Keri had become pregnant, so her adult boyfriend, Paul, agreed to marry her to avoid going to prison for statutory rape. There are currently several bills pending in the South Carolina legislature that would limit or end child marriage in the state. Read more.
“Forced Marriage: ‘Dad Said He Would Kill Me if He Found Me,” BBC News (March 18, 2019). Sanaz was 13 years old when she left her London home to escape a forced marriage, and has now shared her story in a video being used to raise awareness among students. While the U.K. criminalized forced marriage in 2014, the Metropolitan Police have yet to secure a conviction. Police cite young people’s general unwillingness to give evidence against their own parents, and say that their first priority is protecting individuals facing forced marriage, not necessarily prosecuting the perpetrators. Watch here.
Elin Hofverber, “Finnish Parliament Revokes Underage Marriage Exception,” Global Legal Monitor (March 12, 2019). The Finnish Parliament has adopted changes to the country’s Marriage Act, revoking exceptions that previously allowed children under age 18 to marry with permission from the Ministry of Justice. Previously, the Ministry could grant exceptions in “special cases,” including “pregnancy, religious beliefs, and cultural reasons.” The new rules are intended to increase the equality and independence of women in Finland, and to better harmonize Finnish law with the country’s obligation to protect children under international law. Read more.
Michelle Rindels, “Women Forced into Wedlock as Teens Urge Lawmakers to Ban Marriage for People under 18,” The Nevada Independent (March 6, 2019). Sara Tasneem was one of three survivors of forced marriage who testified before Nevada’s Assembly Judiciary Committee in favor of a bill that would prohibit marriage under age 18. Sara said she was 15 years old when she was forced into a “spiritual marriage” with a 28-year-old man. When she was 16 and pregnant, the man brought her across state lines to Reno, Nevada, to have the marriage legally solemnized. Read more.
“Bid to Ban Marriages for 15-Year-Olds in Utah Clears Hurdle,” The Daily Universe (March 4, 2019). A bid to ban marriage for 15-year-olds in Utah has cleared its first hurdle with support from women who have left polygamous groups. Rep. Angela Romero had originally proposed a ban on all marriages under 18, but agreed to an amendment allowing an exception for 16- and 17-year-olds to be married with a judge’s permission. Rep. Romero plans to add a provision to her bill outlawing marriages with age gaps larger than seven years, and would eventually like to see all exceptions for 16- and 17-year-olds removed. Read more.
Brian Vinh Tien Trinh and Amanda De Souza, “How Samra Zafar’s Fight for Education Became An Out From Her Abusive Marriage,” Huffington Post (March 1, 2019). In her new novel, A Good Wife: Escaping the Life I Never Chose, Samra Zafar explores the systemic roots of her abusive arranged marriage. At age 16, she learned that she was being sent to Canada to marry a man 11 years older than she was. “I couldn’t get an education, couldn’t go out of the house, have any independence – any kind of freedom whatsoever – my job was to stay home and protect that family honor,” Samra says. At age 26 she was finally able to attend university, and eventually left her abusive marriage. Read more.
Cynthia Sewell, “This Bill Would Have Ended Child Marriage under Age 16 in Idaho. The House Voted it Down,” Idaho Statesman (February 28, 2019). The Idaho House of Representatives voted 28-39 to kill a bill that would have set the state’s minimum marriage age at 16 – a compromise that would have at least made Idaho’s minimum marriage age consistent with its age of sexual consent. Current Idaho law does not set any minimum age to marry, and the state has the highest per capita rate of child marriage in the U.S. Read more.
Benjamin Wood, “No Marriage before Age 18? House Committee Meets Bill Sponsor Partway with Amendment Allowing the Courts to Decide,” The Salt Lake Tribune (February 26, 2019). Utah state representatives heard emotional testimony in support of a bill to end child marriage in the state, including by Heidi Clark, who was married at 15 because of an unplanned pregnancy. Ms. Clark said she was not mature enough to handle the marriage, which later became abusive. The committee was nonetheless unwilling to ban all underage marriages, instead amending Rep. Romero’s bill to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to marry with the permission of a juvenile court judge. The bill does not specify how a judge is to evaluate those requests, instead granting broad judicial discretion. Read more.
Poonam Taneja, “Forced Marriage: Union Warns over ‘Criminalising’ Teachers,” BBC Victoria Derbyshire Programme (February 20, 2019). The United Kingdom’s largest teachers’ union has warned the government against making teachers mandatory reporters of forced marriage. A Home Office consultation is currently exploring such a proposal for teachers, health workers, and social workers, in hopes of increasing reporting and prosecution rates of forced marriage. Many worry that this is the wrong approach and would raise the stakes for teachers without providing them with the training needed to understand the issue. Read more.
Leah Willingham, “Now a Legislator, Girl Scout Returns to State House to Raise Marriage Age to 18,” Concord Monitor (February 19, 2019). Last year, Cassandra Levesque pushed to raise New Hampshire’s marriage age to 16 as part of a Girl Scout project. Now a newly elected state legislator, she is continuing the fight to end child marriage by filing a bill that would raise the age to 18. A similar bill failed previously due to concerns about young people in the military, but Rep. Adjutant – a Marine Corps veteran – testified this year that there are many options for service members to designate survivor benefits to a non-spouse. Read more.
Siddharth Chatterjee, “Nearly One in Five Girls is Wed before She Turns 18. Think about Them on Valentine’s Day,” Los Angeles Times (February 14, 2019). This Valentine’s Day the UN Population Fund launched a social media awareness campaign #IDONT, drawing attention to the global issue of child marriage. Child marriage remains a problem in the United States, which approved thousands of requests for visas bringing child spouses from overseas. USCIS, the agency responsible for the approvals, noted that it only approves requests that would be legal under the marriage laws of the state where the couple will reside – and only two U.S. states prohibit all marriage under age 18. Read more.
Briana Bierschbach, “Bill Aims to Put an End to ‘Child Marriages’ in Minnesota,” Capital View – Minnesota Public Radio (February 12, 2019). When Representative Kaohly Her was a teenager, an older man caught a glimpse of her at a community event. The next day, his family called her father to ask for Kaohly’s hand in marriage. Grateful that her father refused to even consider the request, Rep. Her is now sponsoring a bill to end child marriage in Minnesota by setting the state’s minimum marriage age at 18, no exceptions. Read more.
Mark Niesse, “Marriage Age Could Rise to 17 in Georgia,” AJC (February 12, 2019). Georgia Representative Andrew Welch has introduced a bill to raise the state’s minimum marriage age to 17, and require that any minor seeking to marry be legally emancipated – granted the full legal rights of an adult – by a judge before doing so. Read more.
Nina Funnell, “Shocking Reality for Australia’s Victims of Forced Marriage,” News.com.au (February 11, 2019). Children as young as six years old have been forced into marriages in Australia, where the federal police are looking into over 100 reported cases of forced marriage. These numbers are likely underestimates, since many victims are too scared to report their situation or find help. These reports also do not account for cases of girls are taken from Australia to marry abroad. Read more.
Adrienne Watt Nesser, “Child Marriage Persists … in America,” Tulsa World (February 10, 2019). While many Americans think of child marriage as a problem confined to other countries, the issue remains prevalent in the United States. Nearly every state’s laws include exceptions that allow children to marry under 18, including Oklahoma, where clerks can approve marriages of 16- and 17-year-olds with parental consent, and children younger than 16 if other conditions are met. Pew Research estimates 5.8 per 1,000 children aged 15-17 in Oklahoma are married, putting the state above the national average. Read more.
Rachel Clement, “USCIS Child Marriage Report: Laws That Do Not Value Girls Are Baked into Our System,” The Hill (February 8, 2019). A recent report from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs sheds light on child marriage and immigration, and confirms that current U.S. laws allow for the exploitation of underage girls. The report makes no mention, however, of the hundreds of thousands of underage girls who have been married in the United States. Read more.
Sophie Clinton, “Forced Marriage Consultation Ends,” Big Issue North (February 8, 2019). A U.K. government consultation over whether to compel health professionals and others to report cases of forced marriage drawn varied responses from experts and advocates. Some celebrated the efforts to increase reporting – there have only been four convictions across the U.K. since forced marriage was criminalized in 2014. Others, however, emphasized that community outreach and education were needed, as many people are not even aware that the practice is a crime. Read more.
Sami Moubayed, “Syria Amends Civil Law Giving Women More Rights,” Gulf News (February 8, 2019). Syria’s parliament passed groundbreaking amendments to the country’s civil law, including marrying the country’s minimum age of marriage to 18. The change comes in response to a spike in child marriages as the country’s conflict and economic conditions worsened, and families found themselves in compromising positions. The previous law set a minimum age of 17 but allowed broad exceptions for girls as young as 12 – no such exceptions exist in the newly passed measure. Read more.
Nathan Brown, “New Bill Would Put More Limits on Child Marriage in Idaho,” The Post Register (February 5, 2019). A bill introduced in Idaho would set the state’s minimum marriage age at 16, and require a judge to approve the marriage of 16- and 17-year-olds. Rep. Melissa Wintrow, the bill’s sponsor, said would prefer to set the minimum age at 18 but thought that her bill was a good place to start the conversation, and would at least bring Idaho’s marriage law into line with its statutory rape laws. Read more.
Daniel Bendtsen, “Four Locally Sponsored Bills Pass out of House,” Laramie Boomerang (February 3, 2019). While several bills sponsored by Laramie-area legislators passed out of Wyoming’s House of Representatives, Rep. Pelkey’s measure to ban child marriage was narrowly voted down. In supporting the bill, Pelkey called child marriage one of the easiest ways to exploit minors, and noted that child marriage is associated with high rates of domestic violence, high school dropout, and various medical problems. Representatives opposing the measure argued that emancipated minors shouldn’t be prevented to sign a marriage contract when they can sign others. Current state law allows non-emancipated minors to marry. Read more.
Bob Bernick, “Romero Introduces Bill to End Underage Marriages in Utah,” Utahpolicy.com (February 1, 2019). A bill has been introduced in Utah to set the state’s minimum marriage age at 18, with no exceptions. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Angela Romero, anticipates pushback on this bright line approach. She is considering making changes that would make HB 234 more palatable to other legislators. Read more.
“The Future at Her Fingertips: What Happens When Girls Say #IDONT,” United Nations Population Fund (February 1, 2019). The United Nations Population Fund has planned a Valentine’s Day campaign exploring what happens when girls are emboldened to say “I don’t” to child marriage. The campaign will spread awareness about child marriages around the world and share testimony from survivors including Jada, who escaped a forced marriage with the help of the Tahirih Justice Center. Read more.
Jess Lester, “Neighbor from Hell: Abducted in Plain Sight: ‘I Was Kidnapped by My Neighbor Twice and Forced to Marry Him at 12 – and My Brainwashed Parents Let Him’,” The Sun (January 26, 2019). Jan Broberg was abducted twice by a family friend, and faced years of molestation and sexual abuse at his hands. She was taken from her family home in Idaho, and forced into marriage at age 12. Jan only began sharing her story publicly 28 years later, and her experience has now been documented in a new Netflix documentary, Abducted in Plain Sight. Read more.
Joe Robert, “Trans Homeless Man Forced to Run Away to Escape Arranged Marriage,” Metro (January 24, 2019). Aidan left home when he was 20, after his father tried to force him to marry a man. Aidan was transitioning from woman to man, but his father was unwilling to accept the transition and Aidan’s plans for the future. He shared his story in a new video that aims to address the stigma faced by homeless youth in the U.K. Read more.
Ali Taghva, “Canadian Judge Annuls Forced Marriage to Boss’ Relative,” The Post Millennial (January 23, 2019). Pardeep Kaur, whose boss allegedly forced her to marry his cousin, has won an annulment in British Columbia’s Superior Court. Pardeep’s employer had wanted her to marry his relative so that he could immigrate to Canada as a permanent resident, and threatened to fire her if she refused. Read more.
Rob Gillies, “Woman Who Fled Saudi Arabia Reaches Her New Home in Canada,” Associated Press (January 13, 2019). “This is Rahaf Alqunun, a very brave new Canadian,” announced Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, arm-in-arm with Rahaf following her arrival in Toronto. Rahaf’s case garnered international attention when she refused to leave her Bangkok hotel room, telling authorities that she would be in danger if she returned home to a family who intended to force her into marriage. Several countries were in talks with the UNHCR to accept Rahaf for resettlement, but Canada fast-tracked her application and flew her quickly out of danger to her new home. Read more.
Colleen Long, “Requests to Bring in Child Brides OK’d; Legal under U.S. Laws,” The Associated Press (January 11, 2019). Thousands of petitions for underage spouses and fiancées filed by adult U.S. citizens were approved by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services over the past decade, according to recently published government data. According to the data, U.S. citizen minors also had petitions approved for adult foreign spouses, sometimes decades older. Many are surprised to find that such approvals are often legal, and that at present USCIS does not deny such petitions unless the marriage would be illegal in either the beneficiary’s home country or the state in which they plan to live. Read more.
Read Tahirih’s response to the report here.
Patrick Wintour, “Repatriation Fees for Forced Marriage Victims Abolished,” The Guardian (January 9, 2019). The United Kingdom’s Foreign Office has announced that survivors of forced marriage will no longer be required to cover the costs of their repatriation. The fees charged had caused some survivors to take out crippling loans, sparking public outrage. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt noted that adult Britons receiving consular assistance will generally be required to pay for their own travel home, the particular suffering of forced marriage survivors, often taken overseas against their will or under false pretenses, merits special consideration. Read more.
Laura A. Bischoff, “Ohio to Raise Marriage Age after Dayton Daily News Investigation,” Dayton Daily News (January 7, 2019). A measure protecting Ohio children against underage marriage has been signed into law by Governor Kasich. The new law was inspired by a Dayton Daily News investigation that found over 4,000 girls under age 18 had married in the state between 2000 and 2015, and limits marriage to legal adults age 18 and up, or 17-year-olds granted the legal rights of an adult. Existing law had granted different protections to boys and girls, and included a dangerous pregnancy exception that effectively left the state with no minimum marriage age. Read more.
Adam Manno, “Three Pre-filed Bills Seek to Curb S.C. Child Marriages,” Charleston City Paper (January 3, 2019). South Carolina lawmakers in both chambers have pre-filed bills to reform the state’s marriage law, which currently allows children of any age to marry in cases of pregnancy. Rep. Mandy Powell’s H. 3268 would preserve the pregnancy exception, but limit its application to minors ages 16 and up. Another set of bills, H. 3369 and its senate companion S. 196, with multiple sponsors in the House and Senate, would eliminate the pregnancy exception entirely. Read more.
Kara Fox, “Ireland Criminalizes Emotional Abuse with New Domestic Violence Law,” CNN (January 2, 2019). Ireland has become one of just a few countries to criminalize psychological and emotional abuse in intimate relationships, as The Domestic Violence Act of 2018 went into effect on January 1. The new law also includes additional measures to combat gender-based violence, including criminalizing forced marriage and repealing legislation that previously allowed underage couples to marry. Read more.
Mattha Busby and Frances Perraudin, “Women Forced into Marriage Overseas Asked to Repay Cost of Return to UK,” The Guardian (January 2, 2019). An investigation found that many of the 82 survivors of forced marriage repatriated with assistance from the UK Foreign Office in 2016-2017 had to pay for living costs and airfare, while others received loans from the government. Four young British women, who had been imprisoned and tortured in Somalia ahead of forced marriages, told the Times that they each had to pay £740 to return home. The burden of the loans allegedly contributed to their becoming destitute. Read more.
Nick Reynolds, “Laramie Lawmaker Introduced Bill to Ban Child Marriage,” Casper Star Tribune (January 1, 2019). A bipartisan coalition of Wyoming lawmakers, spearheaded by House Minority Whip Charles Pelkey, have introduced a bill to raise the state’s minimum marriage age to 18. Current law allows 16- and 17-year-olds to marry with the permission of a judge through exceptions that the newly introduced bill would repeal. “Marriage is a major lifelong decision,” said Rep. Pelkey. “Frankly, it probably shouldn’t be left in the hands of a minor.” Read more.