Until recently, children of only 13 could get married In Virginia with parental consent if the girl was pregnant. But a new law just made marriage under the age of 18 illegal, according to an article on The Huffington Post.
The legislation aims to fight against issues such as forced marriages, statutory rape and human trafficking by preventing abusers to marry their victims and avoid legal charges.
Sen. Jill Vogel, one of the people who pushed for this bill, told the Guardian that “The fact that you can marry a child is, to me, unconscionable where we are in today’s society. This was one of the really, really unbelievable loopholes in the law.”
Now this new law removes the loophole in which a judge could approve the marriage of a 13-year-old who had parental consent and was pregnant. The only exception that remains is that 16-year-olds can get married as long as they are emancipated by a court order.
Virginia isn’t the only state which deals with the issue of child marriage. Most states let 16-year-olds get married if they have parental consent, and many of them even approve marriages of younger children if the girl is pregnant.
Jeanne Smooth of the Tahirih Justice Center told the Washington Post that “We hope that legislators [in other states] will see the efforts in Virginia as a wake-up call.”
In Virginia, nearly 4,500 children under the age of 18 got married from 2004 to 2013, and over a similar period of time in New York, between 2000 and 2010, around 3,800 children got married.
However big the issue of child marriage is in the U.S., it’s still not as common as in other countries around the world. For instance, in Bolivia, more than one in five girls are married by the age of 18, and in Bangladesh almost two in three girls are married underage.
But the outcome of this situation is dangerous anywhere in the world: girls who get married under the age of 18 are less likely to stay in school and more likely to be subjected to domestic violence.