Law makers have finally woken up to ending child marriages. No, it’s not happening in a 3rd world country, it’s happening right here in New York and all around United States.
Since 2000 and up until 2010, 3,853 minors were married in the state of NY.
Survivors of child marriages recall the horrific constant abuse which included rape, and painful poverty. Some states have even allowed children as young as 14 to “settle down” like “real grown-ups.”
Fraidy Reiss, executive director of Unchained at Last, a nonprofit advocacy group that helps women and girls leave marriages they’ve been forced into, or avoid them altogether, commented on the issue “They don’t have legal authority to file for divorce and many would be bucking their family’s wishes by leaving their husband. If they’re lucky, they get child welfare authorities to intervene and get placed in foster care”
A bill is being sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Westchester), to make marriages for children under 18 illegal. In fact, the Assemblywoman is looking to “stretch” the age up as much as possible to at least 16-17, and a court judge would have to approve anyone who is under the age of consent, meaning 18, to marry. The current law is extremely objectionable, according to Paulin. “In New York, you can marry at age 14, and the age of consent [for sex] is 17. . . We’re legalizing statutory rape by allowing a girl that’s younger than 17 to marry someone that’s older,” she stated.
In religious communities, arranged marriages are not only a common custom they are also encouraged.
Many girls and boys that are stuck in arranged marriages are not even able to “speak up” due to social stigma but more disgustingly, and importantly, it’s due to the fact the it’s completely legal but “legal” doesn’t mean moral, according to a hasidic woman who wanted to be called “Esther.”
Esther married her “Shidduh,” who also happened to be her rapist, at just 17. She had no choice as the marriage was arranged.
“He must have raped me a million times while we were married,” she said. Esther, unlike many minors, finally ended the marriage years later but had to tell her parents first about the abuse she suffered.
The issue of child marriage in the United States is a complicated one due to lack of data and legal red tape. The isn’t any confirmed numbers on child marriages in more than 2 states according to Unchained Now’s Director, Fraidy Reiss. “We still don’t have a very good sense of how common child marriage is here in the United States,” says Reiss. “The fact is, though, while 18 is the minimum marriage age in most US states, every US state allows exceptions under which children under age 18 can get married.”
As far as parental involvement and consent in these marriages, while parental consent, or that of a guardian, is required in most U.S. States to allow children younger than 18 to marry, that still does not guarantee the child’s safety. According to Reiss, “The problem with parental consent is that there is no process in place to ensure that it’s not actually parental coercion. Even in a situation where a girl is sobbing openly and doesn’t want this marriage, her parents can sign the marriage license application and force her into a marriage without the clerk having any authority to intervene.”