…86 percent wedded an adult
Between 2000 and 2015, at least 207,468 minors were married in the United States.Despite an overall fall in child marriage since 2000 (25,583 to 9,247), there are still a shocking number of young children legally married in the country.
Only 14 percent married other minors, meaning 86 percent wedded an adult. As our infographic shows, the youngest to marry since 2000 were three ten-year-olds. According to Frontline, the three girls married men aged 24, 25 and 31 in Tennessee in 2001.
While certain conditions have to be met before a minor can marry, and consent from a parent or judge is usually required, every state in the U.S. allows children to marry to some extent. In Oregon and Nebraska, for example, the lower limit is set at 17. In 26 states, there is no minimum age for marriage.
According to United Nations Population Fund, Child marriage is a human rights violation. Despite laws against it, the practice remains widespread, in part because of persistent poverty and gender inequality. In developing countries, one in every four girls is married before reaching age 18. One in nine is married under age 15.
Child marriage threatens girls’ lives and health, and it limits their future prospects. Girls pressed into child marriage often become pregnant while still adolescents, increasing the risk of complications in pregnancy or childbirth. These complications are a leading cause of death among older adolescents in developing countries.
Many international agreements outlaw child marriage, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women. The International Conference on Population and Development in 1994 also called on countries to eliminate child marriage. Yet the act is not limited to developing nations but to the advanced countres like US.
How to end child marriage
Ending child marriage requires action at many levels. Existing laws against child marriage should be enforced, especially when girls at risk of child marriage, or who are already married, seek protection and justice. And where it is not yet the case, the legal age of marriage should be raised to 18. But laws only provide the framework for action against child marriage. Practices people deem acceptable are unlikely to disappear through legislation alone.
Governments, civil society and other partners must work together to ensure girls have access to education, health information and services, and life-skills training. Girls who are able to stay in school and remain healthy enjoy a broader range of options, and they are more likely to be able to avoid child marriage.
And, importantly, girls who are already married need to be supported. Married girls need reproductive health services to help them avoid early pregnancy. Those who become pregnant need access to appropriate care throughout pregnancy, childbirth and in the post-partum period. They should be supported, if they choose, in returning to formal or non-formal school.