Child marriage and forced marriage are more of a problem in the U.S. than you’d expect.
Do you remember I wrote about Fraidy Reiss, a woman once an Orthodox Jew who left the sect and now directs a nonprofit called Unchained at Last, dedicated to helping “women and girls leave or avoid arranged and forced marriages.”
You don’t remember? No matter because I do and will now remind you, since Ms. Fraidy has been praised here at Sidebar previously.
Yesterday, she had a startling opinion column in the New York Times (see link above). It begins:
IN the United States today, thousands of children under 18 have recently taken marital vows — mostly girls married to adult men, often with approval from local judges. In at least one case, a 10-year-old boy was legally married.
How is this possible? The minimum marriage age in most states is 18, but every state allows exceptions under which children under age 18 can wed.
The first common exception is for children marrying with “parental consent.” Most states allow children age 16 or 17 to marry if their parents sign the marriage license application.
Of course, one person’s “parental consent” can be another’s “parental coercion,” but state laws typically do not call for anyone to investigate whether a child is marrying willingly. Even in the case of a girl’s sobbing openly while her parents sign the application and force her into marriage, the clerk usually has no authority to intervene. In fact, in most states there are no laws that specifically forbid forced marriage.
Ms. Reiss is being exquisitely balanced to mention a 10-year-old boy, but throughout her piece makes it clear that the vast majority of children so abused are girls.