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Still from a child marriage social-experiment conducted in Times Square by YouTube vlogger Coby Persin. 
Still from a child marriage social-experiment conducted in Times Square by YouTube vlogger Coby Persin. 

Child Marriage: It happens here, too

Human Rights Watch has officially launched a campaign to support a bill that could potentially end child marriage in Florida, where pregnant girls can get…

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One of the most popular excuses that people have used to justify support for invading or terrorizing other countries, committing slaughters on a genocidal scale, has been the issue of child marriage. Those brute, ignorant, perverted, religious-fanatics, they’ll whine on their Reddit comment threads, how can these snowflake women in the United States act like things are hard for them here when they could be over THERE. “There”, otherwise known as a third-world developing country, typically in Central America or The Middle East, or wherever the mainstream media has demonized over the years. These concerned individuals aren’t necessarily incorrect. Girls Not Brides notes that the 20 countries with the highest rates of child marriage are all mostly in The Middle East, Northern Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa (save for India and Nicaragua), but their logic for choosing which countries to go to war with is ironic. If child marriage is the impetus to raise arms and liberate women with our natural ‘Merican manifest destiny, then we’d need to bombard within our own borders first.

Actually, if we’re really going to commit 100% to this cause, we’d need to attack almost every state in order to liberate women from the tyranny of child marriage, for in 25 states in our country there are no minimum age requirements to wed, while in the others, the age requirement ranges from 13-17 years old.

Unchained at Last found that, in the past fifteen years, approximately 250,000 children in America were forced to marry, with most being girls getting hitched to men twice their age. Pew Research Center reports that West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Nevada, and California have the highest prevalence of child marriage, while Alaska, Rhode Island, and Maine has the least (compared to the national average).

Child marriage correlates with domestic violence, psychiatric disorders, dropping out of high-school, poverty and financial instability, and early stress that leads to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. It has been witnessed in every American culture and religion, and regardless of citizenship status.

The United States Agency for International Development deemed global child marriage one of their core human rights violations to hone-in on, but so far, not a single state in our nation has outlawed child marriage.

Not even our neighbor New Jersey, which could have been the first to set a positive historical precedent in the country, could do so in May 2017. Governor Chris Christie cited “sensibilities” and “religious customs” as the reasoning to veto the bill, and critics denounced his weakness, musing if pressure from anti-abortion lawmakers were to blame for Christie’s final decision. After all, many forced/arranged (Unchained at Last deems these categories to be indistinguishable from the other) child marriages occur as a result of an unwanted pregnancy, and within those instances, staying with your rapist ‘til death do you part to uphold honor and to avoid scandal.

Florida, a state where pregnant girls can get married at any age if a judge approves it, may have the chance to redeem itself and finally have a law that is stricter than say, Afghanistan, where pregnant girls can only get married if they are sixteen.

This legislation (SB 140/HB 335) would only allow marriage above the age of eighteen in Florida, no exceptions. In a state where more than 16,000 child marriages have taken place since 2000, and in a country that lags behind El Salvador, Spain, Honduras, and Guatemala in child marriage restrictions, this would be groundbreaking. Senator Perry Thurston recently stated: “I’m just trying to make sure we’re not talking about 17-year olds getting ready to go off into the military, and now they want to get married before they go off. We are talking about minors, and I just find it hard to believe that there are jurisdictions in this day and age that are allowing adults to marry minors who are 12, 13 years old, pregnant, that somebody’s not inquiring who’s the father and actually prosecuting them” (WTVY).

Human Rights Watch has officially launched a campaign to support this bill, calling on advocates to protect Florida’s young boys and girls by e-mailing and calling Florida lawmakers.

The time for progress is now.

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