Tahirih Justice Center recently released a report outlining child marriage laws in each state across the country.
The center found that 27 states have no legal minimum age for marriage, meaning that there is no “floor” beneath which a child cannot be married, as long as a court and/or a parent gives consent.
From the report:
“Most states require the parties to be at least age 18 (the typical age of ‘majority,’ or legal adulthood) to marry without parental consent or judicial approval. Age 18 is therefore often referred to as a state’s ‘statutory minimum marriage age.’ The term can be misleading, however, because statutory exceptions that apply if there is parental consent or if a judge approves of the marriage, and/or in case of pregnancy, can in effect drop the true minimum marriage age much lower. In fact, many states actually set no bottom-line age ‘floor’ by statute (that is, a lower limit below which a child cannot be married, even if exceptions are met).”
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), child marriage is “perhaps the most prevalent form of sexual abuse and exploitation of girls,” and “marriage before the age of 18 is a fundamental violation of human rights.”
About 15 million girls around the world are married before their 18th birthdays each year – or about 40,000 per day, according to the International Center for Research on Women. Exactly how many of these girls are being married in the U.S. is unknown since not all states track this data.
Tahirih Justice Center is a national organization providing a broad range of direct legal services, policy advocacy, and training and education to protect immigrant women and girls fleeing gender-based violence.
Read the full report here.