The New York Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees will be considering S3086/A3891, life-saving bills that would prevent children from being forced into marriage by prohibiting marriage of individuals under the age of 18.
This legislation is important because, too often, marriages occur in religious sects where very young girls are forced to marry men much older than them.
Child marriage remains a widespread problem in the United States.
Between 2000 and 2015, more than 207,500 children as young as age 12 have been forced to marry, including nearly 4,000 in New York. Current New York law sets a minimum marriage age of 18 but has a loophole allowing children 17 years old to marry with custodial parent or guardian consent and judicial approval. The U.S. State Department has called marriage before age 18 a “human rights abuse.”
Children forced into marriage because of their parents’ beliefs have few options. As minors, they face legal dead ends, and organizations and shelters have significant barriers to helping them. As a result, these children remain with abusive families and husbands, and they are often removed from school, raped, and live in poverty.
The only way to give children the ability to say “No” to marriage is to eliminate marriage under age 18 and close loopholes to existing laws.
Postponing marriage until both parties are 18 gives young people the legal right to refuse to marry and to take legal action against domestic abusers.