As anyone who has ever been 14-years-old or spent five minutes in the presence of a teen can attest, the prospect of a child getting married at this age is very scary. But, it happens in America far more often than we may think and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is working to reverse a problematic law that allows teenagers to get married but not divorced.
The little-known New York law allows children as young as 14 to marry with parental and judicial consent — and nearly 3,900 minors were wed in the state between 2000 and 2010, according to The New York Times. The majority of these marriages were arranged by parents due to religious or cultural traditions and involved teen girls marrying older men.
But New York state law bars anyone under the age of 18 from filing for divorce.
“There have been cases where a girl is pregnant and the pregnancy happened as a result of sexual assault,” Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women’s New York chapter told The New York Times. “But her parents are forcing her to marry because being an out-of-wedlock teen mother is a worse social standing than suffering a sexual assault in silence.”
Thankfully, it may not be a law for much longer — Governor Cuomo has introduced legislation to outlaw child marriage in New York once and for all. Under Cuomo’s proposal, the minimum age to wed would be 17.
New York isn’t the only state with problematic child marriage laws — New Jersey and Missouri are also working to increase the minimum age to wed.
The nonprofit Unchained at Last has spearheaded a national movement to end child marriage by challenging the current laws and loopholes.
Child marriage is far too often a form of child abuse, and it’s crucial to protect minors (especially young girls) by outlawing the practice entirely.