The latest Unicef numbers indicate a significant drop in the number of child marriages across the globe but the country that champions itself as the bastion of human rights is still debating whether 13-year-old girls should be allowed to get married.
A bill outlawing child marriages in Kentucky, proposed by Republican state Senator Julie Raque Adams, was hampered in the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee following a protest from a conservative group last week.
This delay prompted nationwide exasperation:
Dear twitterverse, please explain to me how this can be happening in 2018? This is NOT about understanding regional customs & culture. This is clearly an issue of endangering our most valuable resource - OUR CHILDREN https://t.co/o7oxpOrpzK— Stephanie Ruhle (@SRuhle) March 6, 2018
Kentucky's 'child bride' bill stalled, which would overturn Kentucky's law allowing 13-year olds to get married, as "parentsrights" groups fight to let keep the outdated law in place— Brian Krassenstein?? (@krassenstein) March 4, 2018
What about the rights of these kids who don't want to be forcefully raped by their 'husbands'??
Amid the criticism, the chairman of the Kentucky Senate Judiciary Committee tweeted:
While everyone on Twitter was calling people names yesterday I was working with stakeholders on @jrajra’s SB48 (which I fully support as-filed) and I plan to hold a called meeting of my committee to hear it sooner so we can pass it and get it to the House ASAP!— Whitney Westerfield (@KyWhitney) March 3, 2018
The bill under consideration aims to ban marriages under the age of 17, while those seeking to marry at that age would require the judge’s approval, as reported by Insider Louisville.
Current law in the state permits the marriage of 16- and 17-year-olds with their parents’ consent and a girl under 16 can marry if she is pregnant and is willing to wed the father of the baby.
A women’s rights advocacy group, Tahrih Justice Center, has highlighted some alarming figures pertaining to child marriages in Kentucky. The state has the third-highest number of child marriages in the U.S. Around 11,000 children got married in the state between 2000 and 2017 with some as young as 13 years old, as reported by WFPL investigation.
The conservative group that's protesting against the bill goes by the name of The Family Foundation. They believe this bill will harm parental rights as 17-year-olds would be allowed to marry without their parents’ consent. Adams, however, believes personal interests are being safeguarded in the name of protecting parental rights.
“It is disgusting that lobbying organizations would embrace kids marrying adults,” Adams had posted on Twitter. “We see evidence of parents who are addicted, abusive, neglectful pushing their children into predatory arms. Appalling.”
The Courier Journal wrote a story that featured an advocate of the bill, Donna Pollard, who recounted her marriage, which took place when she was 16, to an older man who began sexually abusing her at 14.
A bill to make 18 the legal age for marriage in Kentucky has stalled in a Senate committee amid concerns about the “rights” of parents to allow children to wed at a younger age. Republicans are defending child marriage again. This is absolutely disgusting.https://t.co/x16Q3SHpuy— Scott Dworkin (@funder) March 5, 2018
The proposed law is pretty comprehensive as it has set conditions for 17-year-olds’ request for marriage. The judge will have to check that the intended spouse is not on the National Sex Offender public website and his past record is not tainted with any incident of domestic violence.
The Family Foundation’s protests didn’t go in vain as the bill was stalled and has been revised. Under the additional clause, parents would also have to give permission for the marriage as part of the court process, Cothran said.
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