Reality of Child Marriage in the United States of America and Its Hypocrisy

On the world platform, the evil of child marriage has long been portrayed as an issue in the developing world – especially in Bharat and various nations in Africa and the Middle East. But its reality in a ‘developed’ nation of America is rarely discussed or even mentioned by Child and Women welfare organisations around the world. Ironically, it is the United States of America that often preaches the world about human rights but what the statistics talk about child marriage in its home ground are no less than a shocker.

Child Marriage in the United States of America

Many assume that it was a practice brought to the United States by immigrant populations, or one used in isolationist religious sects. However, even at the height of immigration to the United States in the 1910s and 1920s, U.S.-born white children of U.S.-born parents were more likely to be married as minors than were immigrant girls of the first or second generation. U.S.-born black girls were about one-and-a-half times more likely to be married than were white girls. In both cases, poor girls in rural states accounted for the numbers.

While the legal minimum marriageable age has gone up in almost all states since the 19th century, many states have exceptions built in that allow parents and/or judges to consent to the marriage of minors below the stated minimums, in some cases if they are pregnant, in others if they are already emancipated minors. This means that with judicial or parental consent, children as young as 10, 11 and 12 have been married in the U.S. in the last couple of decades. (Read here for understanding state statutes in the United States of America on minimum marriage age and exceptions.)

Some astonishing statistics (Source):

  • The minimum age for marriage across most of the US is 18, but every state has exemptions – such as parental consent or pregnancy – which allows younger children to tie the knot.
  • Eight-seven per cent of the minors who married across USA between 2000 and 2015 were girls, with the majority either 16 or 17.
  • The youngest wedded were three 10-year-old girls in Tennessee who married men aged 24, 25 and 31 in 2001. The youngest groom was an 11-year-old who married a 27-year-old woman in the same state in 2006.
  • Children as young as 12 were granted marriage licences in Alaska, Louisiana and South Carolina, while 11 other states allowed 13-year-olds to wed.
  • More than 1,000 children aged 14 or under were granted marriage licences.
  • Most states set the age of sexual consent between 16 and 18 and a person can be charged with statutory rape for having sex with a minor. Yet many children were granted marriage licences, approved by judges, before they could legally consent to sex.
  • Only 14 per cent of the children who wedded were married to other minors. Most married a partner aged 18 to 29, with 60 per cent aged between 18 or 20.

When activists have sought to eliminate those exceptions and ban marriage prior to age 18 outright, they have met with substantial push back. Some religious conservatives worry that without access to marriage, pregnant girls might turn to abortion. Others simply place faith in the institution of marriage to establish a happy and financially secure household. There have been incidents in USA wherein teen girls were married to their rapists.

This is despite the fact that studies have shown that marriage as a minor is much more likely to lead to divorce, to dropping out of high school, to spousal abuse and to mental and physical health problems.

Western media, pseudo liberals and feminists have always shown Bharat as a country wherein child marriages are common. But they all keep mum over such incidents taking place in a country like the United States of America. Such evils existed in past and still exist in many parts of the country, there is no deny. However, situations have improved. As reported in Reuters, according to UNICEF, “25 million child marriages were prevented worldwide in the last decade, with the largest reduction seen in South Asia – where India was at the forefront” and “This is a sharp decline from 47 percent a decade ago.

Reality of child marriage in USA, wherein girls are the main victims, have not been talked much about. Its past, present facts are not much highlighted or discussed by the state authorities there. However, it is easy for them to criticize the asian civilizations, Bharat in particular, about eliminating such evils. USA pushes for bans abroad, but the practice is allowed at home.

Sources:

http://theconversation.com/child-marriage-is-still-legal-in-the-us-88846

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/200000-children-married-us-15-years-child-marriage-child-brides-new-jersey-chris-christie-a7830266.html

https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2018/feb/06/it-put-an-end-to-my-childhood-the-hidden-scandal-of-us-child-marriage

https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2018/01/03/why-america-still-permits-child-marriage

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