Komorebi Post- There are around 264 million children and youth worldwide that are not receiving an education due to war, famine, child marriage, child labor, and violence. Although child marriage is often linked with developing countries, the United States does not legally prohibit child marriage. Since 2018, only Delaware and New Jersey states ban marriage for parties under 18 years-old, without exceptions, the rest of the states allow children under the age of 18 to marry with parental consent.
Many human rights organizations and several legislative initiatives are highlighting this problem and trying to end child marriage in the United States indefinitely. The U.S. State Department has declared child marriage a human rights violation due to the global research that indicates girls who are married prior to the age of 18 experience greater health risks, have less educational opportunities, and are at a greater risk for being victims of violence and exploitation. According to the New York Times, 200,000 minors were married between 2000 and 2015 based on data collected from public records in 41 states.
The United States is a country where it is a crime for a child not to receive an education. Every state has a Compulsory Education Law that requires children of certain ages to attend a public or privately accredited school. If a child has too many reported absences from school a parent could be facing anything from monetary fines to imprisonment. Additionally, the U.S. State Department focused on ending child and forced marriage globally developed a policy strategy known as the Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls. One of their main objectives is to improve girls’ access to education, provide interventions to environments that are detrimental to girls’ education and well-being and support policies and programs that empower girls and teach them their rights.
Other initiatives include:
- Violence Against Women’s Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA) includes an amendment to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 to develop a strategy focused on preventing child marriage and empowering girls who are at risk for child marriage.
- Girls Not Brides HYPERLINK “https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/child-marriage/united-states/” USA is a group of 50 organizations that are committed to ending child marriage on a national scale.
- Unchained At Last is an organization whose mission is to end child marriage in the United States by providing direct care services and advocacy to those who find themselves victims of child marriage. Unchained At Last provides legal, mental health, and emotional support to victims of child marriage. Fraidy Reiss, the founder of Unchained At Last, gave a TEDx Talk on her experience as a victim of child marriage and additional information on child marriage in the United States this past May.
What Can You Do to End Child Marriage in The United States?
- Call Your Governmental Representative- One of the most powerful things that you, as an American citizen, can do to end child marriage in the United States is by writing a letter, sending an email, or calling your governmental representative and telling them that you want them to vote on bills and policies that make child marriage illegal. You can use the power of your vote and voice to encourage your representatives to work for you.
- Donate- You can donate your time, skills, and resources to organizations that focus on ending child marriage in the United States. Unchained At Last provides a list of what monetary donations can do for a girl or woman trying to leave a forced marriage. They also provide additional opportunities, such as becoming a pro bono lawyer or psychotherapist for victims of child marriage.
- Stay Educated- We cannot change what we are not aware of. Take the time to continue to educate yourself on child marriage in your state. Become aware of who in your community is working with victims of child marriage and how you may be able to support them. If there is no one, then maybe the person to begin the movement in your area is you.