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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Child marriage is not a foreign problem but also a domestic one

In the United States, when we think about child marriage we often see it as a foreign issue—little girls being forced to wed older men as a tradition of their culture. What we don’t realize is that it is also an issue present in American society.

Although the legal age for marriage is 18 in most states, there’s the exception for 16-year-olds to get married with parental consent and with judicial approval for those 15 or younger.

As The New York Times reported earlier this October, data shows there were 3,853 children married between 2000 and 2010 in the state of New York alone, where children ages 16 and 17 can marry with parental consent, while 14 and 15-year-olds can marry with judicial approval.

The data showed that most of these marriages were between the ages of 16 and 17. Although it may be argued that this age group doesn’t really qualify as children, but rather young adults, it is the time that determines where these adolescents will take their futures.

Allowing these teenagers to marry during what may be considered a moment of pure impulse or premeditated predation, is like crossing out their pursuit of further education.

As the global partnership, Girls Not Brides, explains on its website, child brides are more likely to drop out of school and therefore, be without the educational and economic opportunities to rise above poverty.

At the moment it may seem that the marriage will only affect the two who are wedded, but in the long run it has a negative impact on the country as a whole as it contributes to our nation’s poverty.

It is absurd to have standing laws that only help make a dent in the future of adolescents and in the future of our country.

Not only does child marriage affect America’s education, but some cases also appears to violate basic human rights.

For example, as also reported by The New York Times, there was a case in which a judge approved the marriage of a 10-year-old boy to an 18-year-old woman. Another situation showed judicial approval for a 12-year-old girl to marry a 25-year-old man.

It cannot be assumed that a 10-year-old child knows enough about love, marriage and commitment to actually want to marry a person 8 years his or her senior.

What factors could have possibly convinced a judge that marriage is the best future for a 10 or 12-year-old child?

These marriages come off as a form of pedophilia.

The age of sexual consent varies between 16-18 years of age depending on states, and any sexual relations involving a person below the legal age would be considered statutory rape.

It is nonsensical to say that a person younger than 16 cannot consent to having sex, but can consent to marriage—one of the biggest forms of commitment.

Plenty of the cases actually seem to demonstrate forced marriage.

Data gathered by the Tahirih Justice Center showed that from 2009 to 2011 there were about 3,000 known or suspected forced-marriage cases, many of which involved girls under 18 years of age.

It isn’t very probable that a 12-year-old girl came up with the idea of marrying a 25-year-old man all by herself, but was rather controlled by her parents or her parents were controlled by her future spouse into doing it.

There are many American organizations that work toward helping girls who are in forced marriages in other countries, but we are overlooking the fact that our own country has flaws in the laws surrounding marriage.

The way in which these laws are set up do not protect minors’ human rights, considering some are too young to even know what they’re getting themselves into.

Marriage is basically a contract that these minors most likely cannot fully comprehend yet.

Instead of only focusing on helping girls from other countries get their lives back from forced marriages, we need to open our eyes and realize the damage that our own laws are causing.

Even though child marriage isn’t as big of a problem in the U.S. as it is in other countries, it doesn’t mean that we should keep shrugging the issue off until it actually becomes more serious.

Follow Genesis Lara on Twitter.

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