Child Marriage Part Deux: The American Edition
I know I often poke holes in the Arab region – because this is where I sit. But let’s look at the US for a second. Not a bastion of human rights and women’s rights these days, eh?
Girls Not Brides reports that close to 250,000 children – mostly girls – were married in the US between 2000 and 2010 – mostly to adult men. I love the name of that organization because yes, girls are NOT brides.
There are legal loopholes that allow for the marriage of minors – Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia being among the “late bloomers” in terms of waking up to this crime and changing the law. Meanwhile, in March 2017, New Hampshire said nope. They rejected a bill to increase the age of marriage to 18 because it would hurt pregnant teenagers and young military members. Ohdear.
And New Jersey rejected the law that would have banned child marriage without exception. Why, you ask?! Because then-Governor Christie said it “does not comport with the sensibilities and, in some cases, the religious customs, of the people of this state”.
I cannot even tell you what stuff “comports” with my “sensibilities” – but I’m pretty sure marrying off young girls is not one of those things.
But it’s a lesson for us all – lest we start pointing fingers at those-people-over-there who do that-stuff. Not those-people. But US. In the U.S.
And Virginia – my home digs – just adopted a bill that increased the minimum age to 18 – but with exceptions. That was in 2016. No, not 1916. 2016!
Virginia is a hot mess on most days anyway.
Virginia is the state where, before 2012, you could only purchase one handgun a month. Only one!
Fortunate for our gun-toters, that “restriction” has been repealed. So – you can buy guns in Virginia more often than I buy shoes. And I have a LOT.OF.SHOES. Because shoes, like guns, last a really long time. So you can amass a large collection pretty quickly.
Virginia is sorta the go-to state for criminals interested in bulk purchases. Of weapons. Not shoes. Good job.
And let’s not restate the obvious link between gun violence and intimate partner violence otherwise we’ll be blogging all day.
OK – just one factoid. One woman is killed at the hands of her partner every 5 days in Virginia. Guns are involved in the majority of these cases.
But back to child marriage. [Recall: child marriage = girl-child marriage = rape of girl-child]
At least girls under 18 can no longer marry in Virginia, thanks to advocacy by the Tahirih Justice Center (advertising interlude: please know-them-love-them-donate-to-them!).
Research in the U.S. shows that child brides usually come from poorer areas. This is a symptom of poverty and a manifestation of the vast (socio-economic, racial, gender, everything) inequalities that exist in the States (aka: the world’s most egregious finger-pointer at those-people-over-there).
There was even a case from Florida of an 11-year-old girl forced to marry her rapist. This is sounding all too familiar.
Bottom line: when it comes to women’s rights, we’re a long way off. Everywhere.