This country is grappling hard with rampant child marriages. It is not a fundamentalist State in the Middle East or any one of those so called developing countries in the East of Africa or South Asia. You will be surprised to know that it is the United States. People tend to assume that child marriage is something that happens in countries such as the ones mentioned above which are old-fashioned in gender norms, not in the US. But child marriage is quite prevalent in the US as reports claim that in the year 2010 alone there were at least 9,247 minors got married in the country.
Almost every state in the US has set 18 as the age of consent to marry at, but most of these states also provide an exception which enables a younger girl to marry if her parents and/or a judge agree to it. Under these conditions there is no minimum age to get married; only the conditions for an exception need to be ascertained. As per the data released by Unchained at Last, a non-profit organisation which is working in the US to stop forced marriages including child marriages, most number of child marriages take place between teenage, or younger, girls and adult men. Between the years 2000 and 2015, a whopping 86 percent of the reported over two lakh child marriages that took place in the United States were between minors and adults.
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Pregnant underage girls are in a very pathetic situation since these girls are being married off to their rapists because they are pregnant. For a pregnant girl, the age of consent to marry is set lower in several states. So, instead of prosecuting her abuser and even if it amounts to statutory rape, a victim is forced to marry the man who raped her. The abuser is also becomes immune from any future statutory rape charges. To make things worse the teenage bride often has to wait until she is 18 to legally get a divorce.
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There is a link between evangelical Christianity and child marriage in the US. Evangelical communities still push for child marriages between girls in mid-teenage and men in their mid-twenties or older. They claim that younger girls make better spouses as they are blank slates and can be more easily made to serve their future husbands better. They also believe that it is the young girls who pursue older men, which means that the pregnant 15-year-old is the one who ‘sinned’ by overcoming the resistance of the adult man who had sex with her. Not only Evangelicals, many orthodox religions too allow or encourage child marriages. To cover up a pregnancy or to increase their standing in the community, parents too support such marriages. States are mulling over to bring in laws to prevent child marriages even at the cost of incurring the ire of religious communities.
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