2019

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.

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