Generally, women in the U.S. need to be of the majority age of 18 in order to marry, however, all but three states accept parental or court exceptions to the rule. As such, many men in the country are exploiting such exceptions in state laws to marry minors at such an alarming rate. Such legal loopholes have lead to disastrous misery for many children, especially girls, who become trapped in marriages they did not want with little capacity to fend for themselves.
Aggravating said such already lax allowances is the fact that 25 states have no statutory “floor” which technically allows a child of any age to get married to an adult with certain permissions.
New research from the Tahirih Justice Center reveals that because of such loopholes in state laws and exceptions, more than 200,000 children were married between 2000 and 2015. Many of those girls married adult men.
Jeanne Smoot who wrote the report said: “America really does have a child marriage problem. It hurts children here, just as it does globally, and we are overdue to tackle it.”
The children being married off come from diverse communities, are mostly girls, and face significant hardships before or during their marriages. Some are also being forced to get married to cover up statutory rapes leading to unwanted pregnancies. Others are also forced to marry because their parents could no longer support them. Then there are also those who are married off for the sake of getting dowry. The reasons can vary.
It was also found out that many of the married children fail to graduate from high school, and even fewer get to attend , and much more, graduate from college.
Children who married also tend to display high levels of psychiatric distress, and are at high risk of being the victims of domestic abuse. Young women are also generally more likely to be abused, but that 16-to-19-year-olds experience triple the national average rate of abuse.
Compounding their woes and troubles is the fact that in most cases, the married children lack the legal or financial independence to fight back against their abuses and liberate themselves from the unfortunate circumstances. Some married children lack even the ability to check themselves into shelters for their protection. They can also be picked up by the police as runaways and in many instances would simply be just returned to their spouses. They can have difficulties seeking the help of family and friends as those individuals could be legally charged with laws related to contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Some states in recent years have been showing an interest to tackle such problem of child marriages. Virginia for one became the first state to enact a law last year that made the legal age 18 the marrying age, with special exception for minors emancipated by ciurts with full adult legal rights. New York and Texas have followed Virginia’s lead earlier this year.