Every State In The US Allows Child Marriage Of Some Sort

In every state, child marriages are legal in some way, and typically ruin the bride's life. Nonprofits and advocates are fighting to change this.

A 13-year-old girl in New Hampshire can't drink alcohol, she can't drive a car, she can't even vote. But with parental permission, she can get married, according to Refinery29

Most often associated with far-off developing nations, child marriages are also a social justice issue happening domestically, right in our backyards. Although not as common as elsewhere in the world, about 57,800 minors ages 15 to 17 years old were wed in the U.S. in 2014, most commonly in the South according to the Pew Research Center.

Every U.S. state allows child marriage in some form or another, CBS News reported. In fact, 27 states don't even have the typical minimum of 18 years old, so long as the parents or a court allows it. Most often, a young girl is wed to an adult man.

In many cases, these marriages are forced upon the children, like when a girl is raped and left pregnant and forced to marry her perpetrator, The Washington Post reported. It often leads to a life of abuse and violence for the girl, and the damages to her life are incredibly difficult to repair.

Those who marry before 18 years old are three times more likely to be physically abused by their husbands when compared to women who marry after 21.

About 70 percent of these child marriages end in divorce, leaving the girl in an unstable economic situation. Those who marry before turning 19 years old are also 50 percent more likely to drop out of high school. Betsy Layman, who was married at 17 years old and managed to escape at 27, had trouble finding a job as a single mother to three kids with no higher education, bank account, or work experience, according to The Washington Post.

Stories like Layman's are not uncommon. Fraidy Reiss went through a similar ordeal when she was 19. After 15 years of marriage to an abusive man, she finally escaped. She and her family no longer speak. Her experience inspired her to start nonprofit Unchained At Last, which helps girls escape forced marriages and assimilate back into society through pro bono legal support, financial assistance, and restraining orders. 

Others are also recognizing the dangers of legal child marriages and taking steps to combat it. New Hampshire resident and Girl Scout, Cassandra Levesque, 18, learned about the current law in her state and took action by bringing a bill to New Hampshire's House of Representatives that would up the age to 18. 

But the bill was killed on the basis of more traditional ideology regarding marriage.

"If we pass this, we will ensure forever that every child born to a minor will be born out of wedlock," said Republican Rep. David Bates, according to The Concord Monitor.

In May, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey had the same reason for vetoing a similar measure for his state.

"An exclusion without exceptions would violate the cultures and traditions of some communities in New Jersey based on religious traditions," he said, according to Reuters

Thankfully, though, some states are moving in a more progressive direction. California, New York, and Connecticut are a few that approved or have pending laws to increase the marriage age.

As the fight continues in other states like New Hampshire, at least one thing being won is national awareness.

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