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.

    5 days ago

    It’s fucking shitty and serves no greater purpose.

    Of course it serves a greater purpose, in the eyes of those who are in favour of it, otherwise they wouldn’t want to keep/extend it.

    Keeping women and girls in subservient vulnerable positions, and men satisfied and in positions of power (even if it’s only within their own home, where they get to then take their rage and frustration at having no real power elsewhere out on their wives and children), is what the patriarchy is all about.

    It also serve capitalism, in that the girls in these marriages are much more likely to be kept in the abusive relationship and have more kids than average, kids who will become workers (E: with both parent and children being home schooled by their respective parent or “educated” by the church, making them more easy to manipulate and exploit).

    It also serves christofascist white supremacy, which has manufactured racist nonsense like “the great replacement” theory to ensure fundamentalists only marry and reproduce within the group, ensuring its survival.

    None of these things are bugs, they are features of these systems, and until as a society we confront that, we will never be able to tear them down and be free.