An expert on child marriage is presenting evidence for the need to change state laws that currently allow minors to marry.
Unchained at Last, the only organization dedicated to ending forced and child marriage in the United States through direct services and advocacy, has released a new study on child marriage in America. Founder Fraidy Reiss tells One News Now the study reveals that nearly 300,000 minors were married between the years 2000 and 2018. While most of those children were 16 or 17 years old, some were as young as 10.
"Most of those were girls married to adult men an average of four years older," Reiss continues. "One of the other really shocking things that we found was that approximately 60,000 marriages since 2,000 occurred at an age that should have been considered a sex crime."
But those cases cannot be prosecuted because marrying a child is legal in 46 states, which means child rape has become legalized through marriage laws.
Reiss asserts that the fact that 10-year-olds are being forced into marriages is shocking, "but we should be just as shocked and horrified when a 16- or 17-year-old marries, because that is a minor who doesn't have basic legal rights that are necessary to navigate a contract as serious as marriage," she adds.
In fact, those children in most states cannot file for divorce, because they are not legally adults. So for the older male marrying a minor, the legal system is a stay-out-of-jail pass that allows them to continue to molest the child.
According to Unchained at Last, the simple, commonsense solution is for every state to eliminate the legal loopholes that allow marriage before age 18 (or higher, if the age of adulthood is higher). Additionally, the federal government must set a minimum age of at least 18 to petition for a spousal or fiancé(e) visa or to be the beneficiary of such a visa and must eliminate the marital exception to statutory rape.