Kids shouldn’t be parents. And that’s just one of many reasons to eliminate child marriage.
It’s usually something we associate with far away, theologically governed countries, but child marriage is a problem in the U.S. – and it’s perfectly legal. At least nearly a quarter million minors under the age of 18 were married in the United States between 2000 and 2015, according to Unchained At Last. Some were as young as 10 years old.
How many U.S. states allow marriage under 18? All 50 of them and the District of Columbia. 25 states have no minimum age whatsoever.
“A 2-year-old technically could marry. A middle school child is allowed to marry [here in Pennsylvania],” Fraidy Reiss, Founder of Unchained At Last explained in an interview last month. Some have called child marriage a loophole for pedophiles. Outside of marriage, sex with a minor is considered rape. But if the perpetrator marries the victim, suddenly it’s legal. The child has been sentenced to a life of exploitation.
Massachusetts and many other states are now grappling with minimum age requirements for marriage. Conservatives are standing by century-old laws under the guise of protecting religious and cultural traditions.
But marriage before age 18 has been called a human rights abuse by our own U.S. State Department. And for good reason. On top of stripping autonomy from minors and allowing them to be sexually abused, there are a number of statistics that show that underage marriage isn’t what politicians romanticize it to be:
And while family planning programs and services aim to help young people delay parenthood, what about those who have parenthood forced upon them though underage marriage? As you might imagine, kids make terrible parents.
The problem with the debate is that our system of human rights and democracy has already settled it. Children should be free to be children. They have rights to bodily and other forms of autonomy and development, with which marriage interferes. They have those rights for their own benefit, and because functional democracies require a level of good parenting that kids cannot provide. Parents who wait until they are ready, have kids with far more successful outcomes.
Kids are the future. Do you really want them raised by other kids?
Take action: Contact Massachusetts Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo and explain why child marriage is a bad idea for our future.