“Child Marriage: Why Does it Persist in the U.S.?” Al Jazeera English (November 25, 2020). The Stream investigates child marriage in the United States. Host Femi Oke speaks with survivors and advocates leading a state-by-state campaign to ensure minors are protected from the harms of marriage under age 18, including Forced Marriage Initiative Program Manager Casey Carter Swegman. Watch here.
Ramishah Maruf, “Child Brides? North Carolina Has Problem with Archaic Law Statute Allows Minors as Young as 14 to Marry,” The Charlotte Post (November 4, 2020). North Carolina may be among the states with the highest number of underage marriages in the country. Current law allows children as young as 14 to marry in the state, and advocates want to increase the marriage age to 18 to prevent North Carolina from becoming a destination for child marriage. Read more.
Elizabeth Gwynn, “Trio Charged over Alleged Forced Marriage of Woman Later Allegedly Murdered,” Nine News (October 8, 2020). Three people stand accused of forcing an Australian woman into marriage, marking only the second time that a charge of forced marriage has been brought in the Australian province of Victoria. The 20-year-old had reported an impending forced marriage to police and been offered protection on several occasions, but it is now alleged that the marriage still went ahead in November 2019. The woman’s body was discovered two months later, and a 25-year-old man has been charged with her murder. Read more.
“Congresswoman Gwen Moore and Congressman Van Taylor Introduce the Status of Child Marriages in the United States Act,” Gwen Moore, (October 20, 2020). Congresswoman Gwen Moore and Congressman Van Taylor have introduced legislation that will require the federal government to study the extent and impact of child marriage in the United States, and identify policy interventions that can keep children safe. HR 8638 is supported by a broad coalition of survivors and advocates seeking to end child marriage in the United States. Read more.
Hannah Summers, “Back Bill to Ban Marriage for Under-18s in England and Wales, MPs Urged,” The Guardian (October 6, 2020). Several members of Parliament are seeking to change a law in England and Wales that allows children aged 16 and 17 to marry with parental consent. Supporters say that allowing child marriage within the U.K. undermines the country’s work to end child marriage abroad, and puts children at significant risk of being forced into marriage. Read more.
“Survey Reveals Popular Misconceptions about Child Marriage,” Phys.org (September 23, 2020). A new study has revealed widespread misconceptions about child marriage among the American public. Most participants guessed incorrectly that child marriage is illegal in all 50 states, when in reality this is only the case in a handful – and even those states that have banned child marriage have only done so in the last few years. Read more.
Sophie Dork-Kamienny, “There’s a Simple Solution to End Child Marriage in North Carolina,” Ms. Magazine (September 11, 2020). North Carolina state law allows children as young as 14 to marry – tied with Alaska for the lowest age floor in the country. Now a new study from the International Center for Research on Women has revealed the consequences of this policy – nearly 9,000 children married in the state over a 15-year period. Read more.
Jesse Collings, “Arlington Refugee Who Escaped Child Marriage Hoping to Empower Girls Worldwide,” Wicked Local Arlington (September 9, 2020). Shagufa successfully avoided a child marriage by pursuing her education at home and abroad. Now a graduate student at Brandeis University, she hopes to one day start a foundation that will work to end child marriage and empower women worldwide. Read more.
Drew Reisinger, “NC Is Becoming a Destination for Child Marriage. Help me Stop It.” Asheville Citizen Times (September 2, 2020). While working as the Buncombe County Register of Deeds, Drew Reisinger encountered a 49-year-old man who had crossed state lines to marry a 17-year-old girl. He is now calling on North Carolina legislators to follow the lead of states that have taken action to end child marriage. Read more.
Lyric Thompson and Casey Carter Swegman, “An Outdated NC Law Has Allowed Thousands of Minors to Marry. Change it to Protect Children,” The News & Observer (August 30, 2020). North Carolina has the lowest statutory legal age of marriage in the country – tied with Alaska at just age 14. Advocates are calling on legislators to end child marriage in the state. Read more.
Maya Oppenheim, “All Religious Marriages Must Be Registered to Protect Women from Abuse and Discrimination, Report Warns,” The Independent (August 11, 2020). Researchers have warned that religious-only marriages, in which a religious ceremony is held but the marriage is never registered with the government, leave British women with no marital rights. They are calling on the government to make registration of all religious marriages mandatory. Read more.
Theresa Walker, “Should Any Child Be Allowed to Marry? These Women Say No.” Orange County Register (August 7, 2020). Advocates with the Newport Harbor Zonta Club are working to revive legislation to end child marriage in California. A previous reform effort was amended to remove any reference to an absolute minimum marriage age, leaving the door open for a child of any age to legally marry in the state. Read more.
“Legal Age to Marry in MN Raised to 18,” KAAL-TV (August 1, 2020). As of August 1, the minimum age of marriage in Minnesota is officially 18. This change is thanks to legislation passed earlier this year, which successfully ended child marriage in the state. Read more.
Sonia Elks, “Interview – The Board Game Helping South Asian Girls Escape Arranged Marriage,” Thomson Reuters Foundation (July 30, 2020). When Nashra’s family started pressuring her into an arranged marriage, she found creative ways to avoid the suitors being foisted on her. Now a student at Rhode Island School of Design, Nashra created a board game in which players do the same. Reuters interviewed Nashra about Arranged!, her game which was recently featured in a documentary about aspiring game designers. Read more.
Janice Johnston, “Alberta Man Who ‘Married’ 15-year-old Child Convicted of Sexual Assault,” CBC News (July 27, 2020). An Alberta man is believed to be the first person tried under a 2015 law that criminalized forced marriage in Canada. Michel Bouvier was convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl, after which he staged what he told the girl was a Cree wedding ceremony. He was acquitted of the forced marriage charge because Judge Rob Shaigec had a reasonable doubt about whether the ceremony was “genuine.” Read more.
Ellen Coyne, “Horrifying Ordeal of Irish Woman Forced into Marriage Abroad,” Herald (July 18, 2020). In the first known case of its kind, an Irish woman escaped a forced marriage after being taken from Dublin to Bangladesh for what she was told was a visit to see a sick grandmother. Amala worked with the U.K.’s Forced Marriage Unit and Irish Department of Foreign Affairs to coordinate her escape, and is now calling on the Irish Government to increase their understanding of and support for survivors of forced marriage. Read more.
Andrew Topping, “Girl, 17, Almost Forced by Parents into Marrying Man Nearly Twice Her Age,” Nottinghamshire Live (July 14, 2020). A Nottingham girl’s forced marriage was prevented after intervention by her school and local authorities. The girl, 17, is on the autism spectrum and was told by her parents that marriage was “the only solution for her.” Her brothers, students at university, had also faced pressure to marry against their will. Read more.
“Getting Married Before the Age of 21 Increases the Risk of Developing a Drinking Problem, Study Shows,” Daily Mail (July 13, 2020). Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University have found that marrying early, before age 21, is associated with a much higher risk of developing a drinking problem later in life. Previous research has shown that marriage decreases the risk of alcohol abuse in older adults, a surprising contradiction to the apparently harmful effects of marriage early in life. Read more.
Nicole Brown, “Child Marriage is ‘Extremely Prevalent’ in U.S.: ‘The Cycle Perpetuates across Generations,” CBS News (June 30, 2020). Donna Pollard, a leading advocate for ending child marriage in the United States, shares the story of her own experience with child marriage. Marriage under age 18 is prevalent across the United States, and often perpetuates across generations – as Donna discovered in researching her own family’s history of child marriages. Read more.
Nora Mishanec, “Chatham Woman Says She Was Abducted, Forced to Marry,” Hudson Valley 360 (June 18, 2020). A New York woman has joined with the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement to demand justice after having been forced into marriage, kidnapped, and forced to work on the farm of her perpetrator in Chatham, New York. Alima Bonsa alleges that the man forced her to marry him in Burkina Faso then forced her, her sister, mother, and niece to work for no pay on his farm. She alleges that law enforcement failed to act on the abuse, dismissing her reports as a “complicated divorce.” Read more.
Learn more about the Justice for Alima Campaign.
Basit Mahmood, “Exclusive: Teenagers Forced into Marriage in COVID-19 Lockdown,” Newsweek (June 18, 2020). Organizations working to prevent forced marriage in the U.K. have seen a spike in calls asking for help during COVID-19 lockdowns, and advocates are warning of an increase in girls being taken abroad for marriage once lockdowns end. One 17-year-old tells of family members who started pressuring her to marry because she no longer needed to study for exams. Read more.
Olivia Heersink, “Idaho Teen Uses Statewide Billboards to Advocate against Child Marriage,” Idaho Press (June 5, 2020). Gracie was startled when she learned that her home state of Idaho had the highest rate of child marriage in in the United States, so she decided to take action on the issue. As part of her senior capstone project she designed a billboard raising awareness about the issue, which was then showcased on billboards in Post Falls, Boise, and Idaho Falls. She plans to continue work on the issue until Idaho ends child marriage. Read more.
Hannah Summers, “Girls at Risk of Child Marriage as Half of Local Authorities Fail to Keep Records,” The Guardian (May 18, 2020). Advocates in the United Kingdom warn that many social workers are not equipped to respond to the increased risk of forced and child marriage posed by the country’s coronavirus lockdown. Read more.
Ellen Wulfhorst, “U.S. Online Marriages Feared Providing Cover for Child Brides,” Reuters (May 15, 2020). During the coronavirus pandemic, many U.S. states have shifted their policies to allow couples to apply for marriage licenses remotely. Such flexibility comes as a relief for many couples looking to tie the knot, but experts warn that the same measures could erode protections that prevent forced and child marriages. Read more.
“Gov. Wolf Officially Signs Law Banning Child Marriage in PA.” WJAC News (May 8, 2020). Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf officially signed into law a new measure ending child marriage in the state. The state – which previously had no minimum age of marriage – set a minimum age of 18, no exceptions. Pennsylvania is the third state to prohibit all marriage under age 18, after Delaware and New Jersey did so in 2018. Read more.
Torey Van Oot, “Bill to Raise Minnesota’s Legal Marriage Age to 18 Goes to Gov. Walz,” Star Tribune (May 6, 2020). Minnesota is poised to raise the legal marriage age to 18 without exceptions. A bill banning all marriage under age 18 was approved unanimously by both the House and Senate, and Governor Walz is expected to sign it into law. Read more.
Foluyinka Fakoya, “COVID-19 and Young Girls: Expect Increases in Child Marriage and Teen Pregnancy,” Ms. Magazine (April 20, 2020). Nine in 10 children are under lockdown in their homes as part of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic. For too many young girls, however, home is not a safe place. Experts predict that along with the well-documented rise in domestic violence, the pandemic will also see increased rates of child sexual abuse and child marriage around the world. Read more.
Lucy Gray, “Lifting the Veil: Why Children Are Still Getting Married in America,” The Independent (April 16, 2020). Many U.S. states have child marriage laws weaker than those of countries like Afghanistan, Honduras, and Malawi. The Independent speaks with survivors of child marriage in the U.S., and their allies who are pushing for reforms to end child marriage across the country. Read more.
James Hitchings-Hales, “After Her Sister’s Murder, This UK Child Marriage Survivor is Fighting to Change the Law,” Global Citizen (March 27, 2020). Global Citizen interviews Payzee Mahmood, a survivor-advocate fighting to end child marriage in England and Wales. Shayzee was spurred to action by the murder of her sister, Banaz, in 2006. Read more.
“Idaho Governor Signs Bill Setting Minimum Marriage Age at 16,” KTVB 7 (March 25, 2020). Idaho Governor Brad Little has signed a bill designating 16 as the state’s minimum age of marriage. The bill also limits 16- and 17-year-olds to marrying a partner no more than three years their elder. A similar bill to limit child marriage in Idaho failed in the legislature because it would have required minors aged 16 and 17 to get a judge’s approval before marrying – this year’s bill requires only parental consent. Read more.
“Minimum Age to Marry Raised in Indiana,” WBIW News (March 24, 2020). Indiana’s Governor Holcomb signed into law a bill ensuring that only legal adults can marry in the state. The new law also sets an absolute minimum marriage age of 16, and establishes judicial vetting for minors aged 16 and 17 who wish to marry. Read more.
Eric Flack, “Maryland Will Become ‘Destination for the Exploitation of Girls’ if Underage Marriage Laws Aren’t Changed, Advocates Say,” WUSA9 (March 12, 2020). Girls as young as 15 can marry in the state of Maryland, a fact troubling for women like Sasha Taylor, who says her childhood was taken from her far too soon. Forced into marriage at age 15 herself, she is now advocating for Maryland lawmakers to bass a bill that would limit child marriage in the state. Read more.
Tom Davies, “Tougher Indiana Law on Under-18 Marriages Wins Approval,” Associated Press (March 12, 2020). The Indiana legislature has passed a bill to end child marriage in the state, setting a minimum marriage age of 18 with a limited exception for minors who have been emancipated – granted the legal rights of an adult – following a private interview with a judge. Current law allowed children as young as 15 to marry with a parent’s permission, leaving many vulnerable to forced marriage. Read more.
Carmen Forman, “Oklahoma House Rejects Bill to Restrict Marriage Involving Minors,” The Oklahoman (March 9, 2020). The Oklahoma House scrapped legislation to limit child marriage in the state, although the sponsor does plan to try and revive the bill before the end of session. While HB 3873 would originally have prohibited all marriage under age 18, it was amended with an exception for emancipated minors in an attempt to win support. Under current law, Oklahoma sets no absolute minimum age of marriage. Read More.
Scott Poyer, “Maryland Lawmakers Should Raise the Minimum Age of Marriage, Again,” Capital Gazette (February 17, 2020). Scott Poyer, clerk for the court in Arundel County urges Maryland lawmakers to raise state’s minimum marriage age. Current law establishes an age floor of 15, allowing minors to marry with parental consent or in cases of pregnancy. The current standard poses threat to minors, according to Poyer, placing these individuals in “an adult situation potentially with limited options for help, especially if the relationship turns abusive.” Read more.
Jessica Morgan, “I Was Forced into Child Marriage at 16, Now I’m Fighting to Stop It in the UK,” Refinery 29 (February 13, 2020). In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, teenagers can wed at 16 with parental consent, while Scotland does not even require parents’ permission. Payzee’s father forced her into marriage at age 16, after which she was subjected physical, mental, and emotional abuse. Now 32, Payzee says it has taken her a long time to accept that was a child bride, but she is now speaking out about her experiences in hopes of ending child marriage in the United Kingdom. Read more.
Nick Reynolds, “Bill to Restrict Child Marriages in Wyoming Defeated in the House,” Casper Star-Tribune (February 12, 2020). For the second year in a row, a bill to curb child marriage in Wyoming has been struck down, even after amendments to loosen the bill by allowing emancipated minors to marry while. The bill failed on a vote of 31-28, with several lawmakers opposing the bill because they believe that a parent should be able to decide whether their child can marry. Read more.
Tamsin Smith, “How Can We All End Child Marriage in England and Wales,” Brides Do Good (February 8, 2020). Over a 100 different social advocates, parliamentarians, legislators, educators, students and grassroots organizations recently gathered to promote discussion, collaboration and education on the issues surrounding child marriage in England and Wales. Current law allows English and Welsh children to marry at age 16 with parental consent, placing that population at risk of forced marriage and the numerous harms that result from marriage under age 18. Read more.
Nathan Brown, “Idaho Lawmakers Introduce Child Marriage Bill,” Idaho Press (February 7, 2020). Idaho is currently one of a dozen states that set no minimum age for marriage, but that may soon change. A new would set 16 as the minimum age to marry, and set a maximum age difference of three years for any marriage involving a minor. The bill walks back a safeguard included in a similar provision last year, dropping the requirement for a judge to approve child marriages. Read more.
Ellen J. Kennedy, “Child, Not Bride: Minnesota Should Outlaw Marriage under Age 18,” MinnPost (February 7, 2020). Current law allows children as young as 16 to get marry in Minnesota. Legislation to address the issue was introduced last year and pass unanimously through the House before stalling in the Senate. Senator Pappas, the bill’s sponsor, has renewed her efforts in 2020 and hopes to end all marriage under age 18 this session. Read more.
Tom Davies, “Scrap Over Old Indiana Gay Marriage Ban Derails Popular Bill,” Associated Press News (January 31, 2020). A widely supported bill for increasing the minimum age of marriage to 18 in Indiana was sidelined, following a proposed amendment to remove now-defunct language prohibiting same-sex marriage from Indiana law. Read more.
Niki Kelly, “Panel OKs Proposal to Increase Age to Wed,” The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette (January 28, 2020). After hearing testimony from survivors of forced child marriage, Indiana’s House Judiciary Committee voted overwhelmingly to endorse a bill that would raising the state’s minimum marriage age. While current state law allows marriage as young as 15, the new bill would set the age at 18, with a limited exception for 17-year-olds granted the legal rights of an adult through a special court proceeding. Read more.
Linda Carroll, “In Many U.S. States, Teens Can’t File for Partner Violence Protective Order,” Reuters (January 23, 2020). Despite the prevalence of intimate partner violence in teenage dating relationships, minors’ access to protection orders varies widely by state, and many states do not allow minors to apply for protection orders on their own behalf. Reuters speaks with Avanti Adhia, a researcher who conducted a study across all 50 states and Washington, D.C. to assess the degree of access minors have to protection orders when facing violence in a dating relationship. Read more.
Nick Reynolds, “Laramie Democrat Pitches Bill to End Child Marriage in Wyoming,” Casper Star Tribune (January 23, 2020). Wyoming Rep. Charles Pelkey has renewed last year’s effort to end child marriage in the state, with two key changes. This year’s bill sets an age floor of 18, but with a limited exception for emancipated minors, and carries bipartisan support from Senate Judiciary co-Chairwoman Tara Nethercott. Read more.
Dawn Tyree, “I Turned My Child Marriage Trauma into Activism,” YES! Magazine (January 14, 2020). Dawn Tyree, a survivor of child marriage in the United States, writes about her experience transforming her trauma into activism. Dawn testified in favor of a new law that ended child marriage in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and has found healing and freedom in speaking out. Read more.