Southwest: Arizona Legislator Pushes to End Child Marriage

Republican Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita of Arizona has introduced a bill that would establish 18 as the minimum age for marriage in the state.

Currently, Arizona has no minimum age for marriage. There are exceptions that permit parents and/or judges to approve the marriage of a minor.

This bill (H.B. 2006) appears to bluntly repeal those exceptions with the language: “A person who is under eighteen years of age shall not marry.”

As the Arizona Daily Sun reported, judges must require minors to participate in premarital counseling – unless such services aren’t readily available. Judges can also impose additional requirements for minors, such as completing school.

Capitol Media Services found that, in Maricopa County, 570 minors had been granted marriage licenses in the state during the previous five-year period ending in June 2016.

Citing the various negative outcomes associated with underage marriage, Ugenti-Rita told the Daily Sun, “I don’t see why waiting 12 months or 24 months interferes with your ability to have a life together or marry.”

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.”

A report released in August by the Tahirih Justice Center in Virginia outlines marriage laws across the country. Tahirih worked to make its home state the first to outlaw child marriage in 2016. There, individuals must be 18 to marry unless they have been emancipated as 16- or 17-year-olds.

Arizona also allows minors to emancipate at age 16.

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Christie Renick
About Christie Renick 112 Articles
Tucson-based Southwest Editor for The Chronicle of Social Change. Follow @christiejrenick.

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