Child Marriage

The should-be crime you never knew existed in the US

When I hear people talk about the United States, the vast majority of them talk about how the United States of America is a glorious country that we should all be happy to live in. But there comes a point where it is necessary to acknowledge that even a nation as great as the United States has its dark side.

Now, I want to fully disclose that I do not hate the United States, but I do feel that it is important that we, as a society, are aware of the flaws that surround us so we can collectively fix them, rather than write those flaws off as “coming with the system.” In my view, knowing that crime will always exist is no excuse for not trying to stamp it out. I would also like to make it know that I will not be focusing on murder, hit-and-runs, theft, or gun violence. What I have referred to in the title to this article is child marriage.

Child marriage is defined as marriage between an adult and a minor, someone below the age of 18. Child marriage exists here, in the United States, and it is not localized to one specific religion or ethnic group. It is quite simply a failing of society because child marriage is legal in all 50 states and these marriages are recognized by the courts. Almost no effective legislation has been passed to outlaw child marriage on the basis of possibly infringing on people’s rights to freedom of religion. However, child marriage has been linked to a higher risk of heart attack, cancer, stroke and diabetes among the women who are married at ages younger than 18 compared to women who marry after age 19, according to an article written by Fraidy Reiss, the founder and executive director of the nonprofit organization Unchained At Last.

What is the most surprising of all is that a lot of these cases of legal child marriage would also fit the description of statutory rape, but are not considered as such as the laws in the states have several conditions that allows for minors to be married. Many states allow minors to be married with parental consents while a few states expressly allow minors to be married if one of the parties is pregnant. According to the Pew Research Center, 4.6 out of every 1000 children between the ages of 15 and 17 are married in the United States which, in 2014, totaled to about 57,800 children with 55% of them being girls. Regardless of what you feel about abortion, the reality is that, for a lot of girls who accidentally get pregnant, marriage at a young age is their only option if they wish to carry the baby to term and want to avoid social ostracization.

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