“’Only Yes is Yes:’ Spanish Government Approves Bill to Define all Sex without Consent as Rape,” SBS News (July 7, 2021). Spain’s cabinet approved a draft bill that proposes to “make clear that silence or passivity do not mean consent, or that not showing opposition cannot be an excuse to act against the will of the other person.” The bill also qualifies forced marriage and genital mutilation as criminal offenses. The bill now goes to parliament for a debate and vote, likely in September. Read more.
Lauryn Bentley, “Aurora Teen Fighting to End Child Marriage in Nebraska,” Nebraska TV (July 5, 2021). Journey Noyes was inspired to work towards abolishing child marriage in the United States after seeing statistics on the rates of child marriage in her home state of Nebraska. She is currently working on a website and in contact with senators to get a bill drafted to enter the legislative session in January 2022. Read more.
Hannah Summers, “Pauline Latham MP Picks Up Bill to End Child Marriage in England and Wales,” The Guardian (June 30, 2021). Pauline Latham will step in to adopt Sajid Javid’s private member bill to end child marriage after her promotion to health secretary. Latham has campaigned to end child marriage for over three years in the UK. The bill would raise the minimum legal age of marriage to 18 in England and Wales and is also backed by child marriage survivor Payzee Mahmod. Ms. Mahmod is also calling for child marriage to be criminalized, which she sees as a way to protect children from religious and cultural non-registered marriages that would not be affected by the marriage age law. Read more.
Gary Robertson, “Bill Raising Minimum NC Marriage Age to 16 Keeps Advancing,” Chapelboro (June 23, 2021). Bill S35, which proposes to raise the minimum age of marriage in North Carolina from 14 to 16 and prevent the minor’s spouse from being more than four years older, was passed by North Carolina’s Judiciary committee. The legislation represents a compromise to the original bill, which sought to raise the minimum age to marry to 18 with no exceptions. The bill now moves on to another House Committee, the Committee on Families, Children, and Aging policy. Read more.
Nicholas Kristoff, “A 14-Year-Old Bride, Wed to Her Rapist, Playing on a Jungle Gym,” The New York Times (June 19, 2021). Patricia Abatemarco had just turned 14 when she was wed to a man who was 27. With the help of her parents, she was able to get a divorce after several years of rape, abuse and trauma. Abatemarco’s case is one of nearly 300,000 children who were married in the United States from 2000 to 2018. Though five states have barred marriages by people under 18, other states must follow suit. Read more.
Hannah Summers, “Government Pledges to Raise Legal Age of Marriage to 18 in England and Wales,” The Guardian (June 11, 2021). The government supports raising the legal age for marriage in England and Wales to 18 in measures to protect children vulnerable to child marriage. The proposed change comes in response to letters from coalitions and charities warning that the current law allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to marry is insufficient in protecting young people from child marriage. Read more.
Catherine Gregg, “RI Governor Poised to Sign Ban on Marriage Under Age 18,” The Providence Journal (June 7, 2021). Gov. Dan McKee is poised to sign into law a ban on marriages by anyone under age 18, even with the consent of a parent, guardian, or court. Rhode Island will become the fifth state with a teen marriage ban, significant progress from their current law, which allows marriages of teens as young as 16 years old. Read more.
Heather Barr, “New York Governor Should Sign Bill to End Child Marriage,” Human Rights Watch (June 3, 2021). The State Legislature of New York raised the legal age for marriage to 18 years old to combat child marriages, prompted by concerns of the previous New York law allowing 17-year-old youths to marry given parental consent. The bill is to be sent to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for his signature or veto. Read more.
Rachel Nunes, “Lawmakers Approve Bill To Ban Child Marriage In Rhode Island,” Patch News (June 3, 2021). A bill that fully bans underage marriages in Rhode Island has reached the desk of Gov. Dan McKee. The bill proposes that only people aged 18 or older would be able to obtain a marriage license in Rhode Island. The bill was championed by several child welfare organizations, including Kids Count RI, The Office of the Child Advocate, and UNICEF. Read more.
Duncan Woods, “Leeds Woman Who Fled a Forced Marriage Aged 16 Calls for Caste-based Discrimination to Become an Offence,” ITV (May 26, 2021). Jasvinder Sanghera, founder of Karma Nirvana and a leading advocate to end forced marriage in the U.K., is calling for caste-based discrimination to be enshrined as an offence in British law. She considers caste-based discrimination to be an underreported and under discussed issue, similar to how forced marriage was not talked about in the U.K. a few decades ago. Read more.
Merella Fernandez, “I Want to Heal: Chad Refugee Facing Deportation from Canada Fears for Safety,” News Talk 1010 (May 26, 2021). A refugee who fled from Chad to Canada to seek asylum after surviving an abusive forced marriage now faces deportation in June. Mariam was 15 when she was married of to a 32-year-old man, and when her husband died in 2010 she was expected to follow local custom and marry her brother-in-law. She instead sought safety in Canada and has since worked with the YMCA, in homeless shelters, and with the UN’s office in Toronto. Despite this the Canadian Border Services Agency has decided that she does not fit the country’s asylum definition, and has scheduled her for deportation on June 12. Read more.
Paul Martin & Lucy Ballinger, “Covid: Fears Over Forced Marriages as Travel Restrictions Ease,” BBC News (May 25, 2021). Sara was 19 when she traveled abroad with her family for her sister’s wedding, only to find out that they had also planned a marriage for her. Years later she is still affected by what happened to her. Advocates and survivors in the U.K. are now raising the alarm that as travel restrictions are lifted, more people may be at risk of being forced into marriage abroad. Read more.
Kori B, “In North Dakota, 16 Is Legally Old Enough For Marriage But Not For Sex,” Super Talk 1270 (May 21, 2021). In North Dakota, a person age 16 or 17 can get married with a parent’s consent, yet cannot consent to sex. North Dakota is one of the 46 states that allow minors to get married. Read more.
“Child Marriage is ‘a Hidden Crime,’ and It’s Happening in Western Nations, Says Survivor and Advocate,” CBC Radio (May 22, 2021). Payzee Mahmod was 16 and just about to enter her college years when she learned she was going to be a child bride in the U.K. Her older sister was murdered in a “so-called honour killing”. Other survivors describe the legal “loopholes” that left them vulnerable to exploitation and forced marriage. Read more.
Victoria Eavis, “U.S. House Candidate Bouchard Says He Impregnated 14-year-old When He Was 18,” Casper Star Tribune (May 21, 2021). U.S. House candidate Anthony Bouchard had a relationship with and impregnated a 14-year-old girl when he was 18, later marrying the girl when she was 15 and he was 19 in Florida. Details surrounding age of consent laws in Florida in the early 1980s are unclear, but the state’s current age of consent is 18. Read more.
Heather Walker, “Debate Over Exceptions Keeps Child Marriage Ban from Advancing,” Target 8 News (May 20, 2021). Discussion about whether some circumstances should be exempted from a proposed ban on underage marriage in Michigan is holding up legislative activity on bills that propose to set a minimum age of marriage in the state. A date will be set for the bill to see a committee hearing. Read more.
“North Carolina Senate Approves Rise of Minimum Marriage Age to 16,” WXII News (May 15, 2021). The Senate of North Carolina unanimously approved legislation Wednesday to increase the minimum age to get married from 14 to 16. Supporters of the bill said it is a compromise from the original bill, which had the age of 18. The compromise now moves to the House for approval. Read more.
Danielle Battaglia, “Make Marriage Illegal Under Age 16, NC Senators Agree in Last-Minute Change to Bill,” The News & Observer (May 12, 2021). Senators in North Carolina approved an amendment from Sen. Danny Britt changing the bill to ban teen marriage for 14- and 15-year-olds. The bill would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to marry if their spouse is less than 4 years older. The amended bill now moves to the House. Read more.
Christian Winthrop, “Rhode Island Senate Passes Bill Prohibiting Child Marriage,” The Newport Buzz (May 11, 2021). The Senate of Rhode Island passed legislation introduced by Sen. John Burke that would prohibit marriage among anyone below the age of 18. The bill would amend current state law that allows the practice with the consent of a parent. The measure now moves to the House of Representatives. Read more.
Brooke Staggs, “Bill Asks: How Many Children Marry in California?” Orange County Register (May 9, 2021). California is one of only 11 states that has no minimum age requirement for marriage. A new bill from Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach) aims to fix that by requiring more regular, thorough and public reporting on underage marriages in California. To try to build support for a change to state law, the California Coalition to End Child Marriages is going to cities and counties, asking local officials to back resolutions to ban marriages under 18. Read more.
Hannah Summers, “Child Marriage ‘Thriving in U.K. Due to Legal Loophole, Warn Rights Groups,” The Guardian (May 4, 2021). A legal loophole that allows 16- and 17-year-olds in England and Wales to marry with parental consent is being exploited and used to coerce young people into child marriage. The latest data from the government’s Forced Marriage Unit shows more than a quarter of cases (363) involved children aged under 18. Read more.
Dorothy Hairston Mitchell, “Column: North Carolina Must End Child Marriage; It Is Never in a ‘Minor’s Best Interest,’” The Fayetteville Observer (May 3, 2021). Mitchell recounts her experience working with minors as a guardian ad litem. She advocates for North Carolina to protect children from the lifelong and other intergenerational harms of child marriage that she has encountered and seen first-hand in her career. Read more.
Emily Clearly, “British Girl, 12, Who Was Trafficked to Syria and Raped by Her ‘Husband’ Is Still Trapped There, Says Charity,” Yahoo News (April 30, 2021). Nadia was 12 years old when she was taken to Syria by a male relative from the UK. She was detained in a ‘hostel’ for unmarried women and girls, where she was repeatedly raped, forced into marriage at the age 14 and had her first child conceived by rape by the age of 15. Eventually, after years of domestic servitude and sexual exploitation, Nadia, her sister and mother managed to escape ISIS territory and make their way to the north of the country. Read more.
Seanna Adcox, “Bill would bar anyone from getting married before age 18 in SC”, Post and Courier, (April 28, 2021). South Carolina proposed a bill that will ban marriage under 18. Senate Minority Leader Brad Hutto claimed that there is no reason in today’s society for girls under 18 year-olds to get married because there are severe consequences for young girls who are forced to do so. Read more.
Janet Holbrook, “Maryland failed to end child marriage once again”, Capital Gazette, (April 22, 2021). Despite some successes in the 2021 Maryland legislative session, the bill of fundamental importance to the lives of adolescent girls has always been buried in committee every year. Read more.
Amber Lusvardi, “Behind the Gaetz scandal, there’s a bigger issue”, Washington Post, (April 13, 2021). After a scandal of Rep. Matt Gaetz with a 17-year-old girl. States, not the federal government, set the age of consent. Now in Gaetz’s home state of Florida, the age of sexual consent is 18, making any sexual conduct between an adult and a minor statutory rape. Read more.
Molly Boigon, “Hasidic Brooklyn’s Child Matchmaker is Under Investigation,” The Forward (March 25, 2021). A Brooklyn rabbi is under investigation for allegedly arranging marriages between children, including one between a 15-year-old boy and a 17-year-old girl. The weddings are illegal under New York state law, which in 2017 was reformed to prohibit any marriage under age 18 with an exception for 17-year-olds granted the legal rights of an adult. Read more.
Samana Young and Ember Penney, “Teenagers in North Carolina Call for an End to Child Marriage,” Ms. Magazine (March 24, 2021). Two high school seniors from North Carolina write about why they support legislation to end child marriage in the state. An estimated 10,000 minors married in North Carolina between 2000 and 2019, the majority of whom were girls marrying adult men. Read more.
Emily Prey, “How the United States Can Address the Global Problem of Child Marriage,” Newlines Institute (March 24, 2021). Newlines Institute writes that before the United States can lead the fight to end gender-based violence globally, it must address harmful practices within its own borders – including child marriage. Allowing child marriage domestically harms U.S. children, and undermines U.S. efforts to address gender-based violence abroad. Read more.
“Child Marriage Bill Would Set Minimum Marriage Age at 18,” Wabi News Desk (March 18, 2021). A new bill, LD 622, would end child marriage in Maine by prohibiting marriage under age 18. Several advocate and survivors of child marriage testified in support of the bill at a public hearing, describing how child marriage has impacted their lives and the lives of other children in the United States. Read more.
Heather Walker “Renewed Effort in Legislature to End Child Marriages in Michigan,” Wood TV (February 25, 20201). A new set of bills to end child marriage has been introduced in the Michigan legislature. Similar bills have been introduced twice since local reporting shed light on the issue in 2018, but legislators sense new momentum behind their efforts and hope this will be the year they find success. Read more.
Suzanne Perez, “No More Child Brides: Make 18 the Minimum Age for Marriage in Kansas,” The Wichita Eagle (February 24, 2021). The Wichita Eagle’s opinion editor writes in support of a bill that would end child marriage in Kansas by setting the state’s minimum marriage age at 18, without exceptions. Current law allows children as young as 15 to marry with a judge’s permission. Read more.
Teddy Rosenbluth, “A New Attempt to End Child Marriage in New Hampshire,” Concord Monitor (February 15, 2021). State Rep. Cassandra Levesque has renewed her effort to end child marriage in New Hampshire, re-introducing a bill to raise the state’s minimum marriage age from 16 to 18. Advocates and survivors of child marriage testified to support the bill, citing the harms of child marriage and the danger of trapping someone in a marriage before they have the legal rights and independence of an adult. Read more.
Lilly Price, “Bill Limiting Child Marriage Introduced for Sixth Time; Advocates Voice Support at Annapolis Moms Meeting,” The Baltimore Sun (February 12, 2021). For the sixth year in a row, state Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary introduced a bill to raise Maryland’s minimum marriage age. Current state law allows 15-year-olds to marry in the case of pregnancy or birth of a child if they have parental consent, and16- and 17-year-olds only need parental consent. The proposed bill would help to shield minors from pressure to marry much older men, and expose coercive or abusive relationships. Read More.
Kevin G. Hall and Ben Wieder, “New Complaint Claims Jeffrey Epstein Forced Some of His Victims to Marry Each Other,” The Miami Herald (February 11, 2021). The attorney general of the Virgin Islands has moved to amend her civil enforcement action against the estate of Jeffrey Epstein, adding new allegations of forced marriage for the purpose of immigration fraud. The complaint alleges that the Epstein Enterprise forced at least three separate marriages, “in each case requiring American female victims to marry foreign victims to avoid their deportation.” Read more.
Danielle Battaglia, “North Carolina Lawmakers Want to Stop 14-year-olds from Marrying,” Charlotte Observer (February 1, 2021). A group of lawmakers are looking to change the fact that North Carolina is tied for the lowest minimum marriage age spelled out in law, allowing children as young as 14 to be married. If passed, House Bill 41 and Senate Bill 35 would end child marriage in the state by preventing any marriage under age 18. The bills’ sponsors have partnered with Tahirih Justice Center and a coalition of local advocacy organizations to move the bills through the legislature. Read more.
Matthew Lavietes, “Thousands of Child Marriages in Canada Spark Concern over Global Leadership,” Reuters (January 12, 2021). A new study from McGill University found more than 3,600 marriage certificates were issued to girls younger than 18 in Canada between 2000 and 2018, with thousands more girls living in informal common-law partnerships. The findings contrast Canada’s posturing as a leader in global, United Nations-backed efforts to end child marriage worldwide with the country’s own law that allows for children as young as 16 to marry with parental consent or a court order. Read more.
Anushka Asthana, “From Yemen to the U.K.: Noor’s Story,” The Guardian (January 10, 2021). Noor was forced into marriage at age 14, but was later able to divorce her husband and became a human rights campaigner in Yemen. When her advocacy led to threats on her life at age 29, Noor fled to the United Kingdom. On The Guardian’s Today in Focus podcast Noor talks about her own journey, and her ongoing efforts to protect the children she was forced to leave behind. Listen here.
Anastasia Moloney, “Dominican Republic Bans Child Marriage Amid Fears of Global Rise,” Reuters (January 7, 2021). On January 6, President Luis Abinader signed a bill to prohibit child marriage in the Dominican Republic, setting a minimum marriage age of 18, without exceptions. Local advocates campaigned hard for the bill, but have no illusions about the fact that passing a law will not be enough to end child marriage in the country. Change will also require a shift in what society sees as normal, so that all women and girls are seen as having other important roles beyond those of mother and wife. Read more.
Susie Beever, “How Karma Nirvana Founder Jasvinder Sanghera Fled a Forced Marriage Aged 16 to Become One of Yorkshire’s Most Inspirational Women,” The Yorkshire Post (January 2, 2021). Jasvinder Sanghera left home to avoid a forced marriage when she was just 16 years old, and has since become a leading campaigner against forced marriage in the United Kingdom. Ms. Sanghera founded Karma Nirvana – an organization dedicated to serving individuals facing forced marriage – in honor of her sister, who died by suicide after being forced to marry a stranger. Read more.