In many countries around the world there are laws that prohibit people from getting married before they are 18 years old, in some cases 21. With that said, there are 93 countries that allow people to get married before they are 18, and with parental consent. These laws fuel child marriages and support the tradition that is held in so many countries. While child marriages affect both young boys and girls, the marrying of young girls is rooted in gender inequality and poverty. I am eager to learn about this topic, because it is something that heavily affects girls my age. I want to educate myself and help reduce the severity and rate of child marriages.
In many parts of the world, girls are not valued as much or the same way that boys are. In most countries that have different ages for when boys and girls can get married, the ages for girls are lower than the ages for the boys. They can sometimes be seen as a financial burden on their families. When families marry their young daughters off, they are transferring that “burden” onto her husband and his family. It is also seen as a practice in some places simply because it’s been happening for so long. Marrying off a daughter after they hit puberty is seen as the next step to her becoming a woman, and someone's wife or mother. In some cases families think that by marrying their daughter, at a young age, they’re protecting her from sexual assault and violence.
Below is a graph that shows the amount of girls that are married before 18 in the different regions of the world.
While child marriages are common in parts of the world like Niger, Chad, and India, there are still cases and issues with child marriages in the United States. Most people probably think about places like Africa and the Middle East when they hear the term “child marriages”, but what they don’t realize is that it was, and to some degree still is, an issue in the United States as well. An article that was posted by the National Public Radio (NPR),stated that 25 out of 50 states don’t have a minimum age for when a person can get married and there are only 8 states that have the age set at 16 or lower. This article also discusses the judge and judicial approval of a marriage. There are 2 states with laws that specifically say that a judge can’t approve a marriage solely based on parental consent. Even in states that have the age set at 16 or higher, judges are usually allowed to disregard the law and allow for the marriage to happen.
Everywhere child marriages takes its toll on the children being forced into marriages. Marrying as a minor could lead to dropping out of school, mental/physical health problems, and they become very susceptible to abuse from their partners. Around the world girls who marry before they’re 15 are 50% more likely to be physically and sexually abused by their partner. Unless they fight back and resist the marriage, they lose their right to an education and the right to how they want to live their lives. This is one of the most damaging systems/practices in my opinion.
Below is a map of the United States, that shows the minimum legal age for marriage. It also shows the 25 states that don’t have a legal minimum age.