Child marriage, which activists describe as one or both parties entering a union while under age 18, remains legal in 37 US states. There are no federal laws against it, meaning minors can marry, with parental consent, before they can vote, drink, or buy lottery tickets in the majority of the country. Some states have a minimum marriage age on the books, which ranges from 15 to 18. Four states – California, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Mississippi – do not specify any minimum age at all.

Many survivors say they felt trapped in their marriages. Some, like Kosnik, must rely on their spouses for financial support. Others are up against complicit parents, who sign off on forced unions. In many states, statuatory rape is not a crime within marriage, creating a legal loophole that entices predators and increases the likelihood of sexual abuse. “Child marriage can be seen as a workaround for child rape,” said Fraidy Reiss, founder of Unchained at Last.

The US government calls child marriage a human rights abuse and has committed up to $5.3m to prevent it “in regions, countries, and communities where interventions are most needed and most likely to achieve results”. American exceptionalism would lead people to associate these regions with the global south, not the US, Gupta says. “Of course it’s prevalent here, too.”

Close to 300,000 minors were married between 2000 and 2018 in the US, according to a study conducted by Unchained at Last; a small number of them were as young as 10. Because 78% of minors who wed in that timespan were girls with adult husbands, advocates frame their cause around saving underage girls from older men.

  • cmoney@lemmy.world
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    5 days ago

    Another not so fun fact is that once the child is married their new spouse is now their guardian. So the child has to have their guardian sign off on legal issues like divorce, or wait till they are of legal age.

    • girlfreddyOP
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      5 days ago

      50 years ago I was living with a guy who decided to beat me one night. After he fell asleep I walked over to the emergency clinic to get checked out. But because I wasn’t 18, and neither of my parents lived in the same province as I did, the hospital made me go back home to get my 18 yr old boyfriend’s signature … so the guy who just kicked the shit out of me had to give the hospital permission to help me.