Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Child Marriage Targeted in Several States

From the ABA Journal:

On her TV show last summer, comedian Samantha Bee told the story of a teenage girl, Cassandra Levesque, who learned about child marriage laws at a Girl Scouts conference. Cassandra was upset after discovering that most states allow girls as young as 13—and boys as young as 14—to be married with the simple consent of a judge.

Cassandra promptly started work on a Scout project to craft legislation in her home state, New Hampshire, that would raise the minimum age to 18. State Rep. David Bates, a Republican, did not appreciate her help. “We’re asking the legislature ... to repeal a law that has been on the books for over a century, that has been working without any difficulty, on the basis of the request from a minor who’s doing a Girl Scout project,” the granite-haired legislator said. Bee screwed up her face in mock horror. “Yeah, what does she know? She’s just a minor. She shouldn’t get to make a decision about something as important as marriage!”

Child marriage, of course, is no joke. Worldwide, the nonprofit Tahirih Justice Center estimates that more than 14 million girls in their early teens will marry in the next decade—the vast majority against their will. One would think that such a situation would be outlawed in the United States. Not so. Tahirih looked at the results of a 2011 survey of about 25,000 U.S. women. It discovered that about 9 percent of all married women were younger than 18. Projecting nationally, the research estimated that 9.4 million had married at 16 or younger.

Read more here.

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