Child marriage is a historical cultural practice. But, the USA state department has declared it a violation of human rights. It is considered a form of child sex abuse. In this article you will learn about the legality of child marriage in the USA.
What is Child Marriage?
Child marriage also known as underage marriage is a marriage in which at least one party is a child i.e. under the age of 18 years. The legal marriage age in the USA is determined by each state, territory, and district individually.
Is child marriage allowed in the USA?
Child marriages are allowed in any of the following exceptional circumstances in the USA:
Every state in the USA except Delaware and New Jersey allows Child marriage in exceptional cases if one or more of the following circumstances apply:
• If there is the consent of a court
• If there is the consent of the parents or legal guardian
• If the minor is pregnant
• If the minor girl has delivered a child
• If the minor gets emancipated
However, there are no exceptions for underage marriages and are not allowed in Delaware and New Jersey.
What are the Effects of child marriage on each gender?
According to some researchers, there are repercussions of child marriages on minor girls such as sexual abuse, pregnancy, and risk of injury or death in childbirth, decreased education, physical effects, psychological trauma, etc. which may last beyond adolescence.
- Effects on Psychological health
Child marriage can cause several psychological traumatic effects on a child such as anxiety, depression or low self-esteem
- Effects on Physical health
Child marriages often result in adverse physical health. It may mostly result in early pregnancy or complications in childbirth as the body of a minor is not fully mature and they may face a risky pregnancy. The most common cause o f deaths of minor girls were due to complications in pregnancy
According to the UNICEF report in 2007, a 15-year-old girl is more vulnerable to die in pregnancy complications when compared to women in their twenties.
- Effects on Education
Child marriage reduces the educational and job opportunity of a minor making them dependent on their spouse.
Boys are also married as a child, the effects of child marriage on boys are comparatively very less and it is more common among girls who are disproportionately affected.
Child marriage statistics
In the USA, there were about 200,000 child marriages between the years 2000-2015. The majority of these marriages were between a minor girl and an adult man. Only about 14% of the underage marriages took place between two minors. According to a data compilation:
• 67% of minors were 17 years old
• 29% of minors were 16 years old
• 4% of minors were 15 years old
• 1 % of minors were 14 years old and under
According to a survey the spousal age was:
• 60% between 18-20 years
• <3% over 29 years
• About 400 cases above 40 years
• The youngest minor girls to marry between 2000-2010 were three 10-year-old Tennessee girls and
• The youngest minor boy was 11 years old to a 27-year-old woman in Tennessee in 2006
Which states allow child marriage in the USA?
From 2017 to 2019, several states in the USA have changed their child marriage laws to set a minimum age, to raise the minimum age for marriage, or to make the conditions more stringent under which an underage marriage may take place. As of May 2019, 34 states in the USA have set minimum age requirement statutes with few exceptions. In the absence of statutory minimum age, the minimum marriageable age may be concluded as12 for girls and 14 for boys.
|Name Of States||Minimum Legal Age For Marriage||Minimum Age For Marriage After Exceptions|
Is Child marriage Legal in California?
Since January 1, 2019 California marriage laws requires parents and partner of a minor child have to meet court officials who assess whether the underage marriage is under any abuse or coercion. A 30 days waiting period is required by minors before getting marries. However there is exception when the minor becomes 17 years old, high school graduate or the minor girl becomes pregnant.
Is Child marriage Legal in Texas?
Texas, the state with the second-highest rate of Child Marriage next to West Virginia , has finally banned It. Since 2017, Texas child marriage laws the minimum age to get legally married is 18 years . However, minors aged 16–17 years who are emancipated have an exemption to marry legally.
In Which states of the USA can you marry at 12?
The child marriage laws in the USA have set a minimum age for a minor to get married with the parental consent from 12 – 17 years. In the USA, minors may get married when they are under the age of sexual consent, sixteen to eighteen for most states . However, in few states the minimum marriage age for boys and girls is separate.
For example: Massachusetts has the lowest minimum marriage age of 14 years for boys and 12 years for girls with the consent of parents.
Is child marriage a Forced marriage or sex trafficking?
A child marriage may legally or unofficially be a forced marriage or sex trafficking in some cases resulting in sexual abuse. However, there are marriage laws in the USA to prevent such abuse to a child.