Law In America That Forces Teen Brides to Stay Married for 4 Years

Law In America That Forces Teen Brides to Stay Married for 4 Years

For years, there's been a little-known law in New York which allows children as young as 14 to marry with parental and judicial consent.

And, disturbingly, a person can't legally divorce in New York state until the age 18.

"I don't think people even knew this," New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo told The New York Times. "I think they are going to be shocked when they hear about the status of the law."

Between 2000 and 2010, nearly 3,900 minors were wed in New York, according to The Times, which reports that most of the marriages were arranged by parents according to religious or cultural traditions. According to the nonprofit Unchained at Last, an overwhelming majority of children married in the United States are girls married to adult men.

New York isn't the only state to allow minors to wed - in fact, most states allow 16- and 17-year-olds to marry, according to Pew.

But that could finally be changing. Last month, Cuomo introduced legislation that would outlaw child marriage in New York. He proposes increasing the minimum age to wed from 14 to 17. Children under 18 would require a judge's approval.

Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women New York, an organization which lobbied for the change in law, told The Times this change is a long time coming.

"There have been cases where a girl is pregnant and the pregnancy happened as a result of sexual assault," Ossorio said. "But her parents are forcing her to marry because being an out-of-wedlock teen mother is a worse social standing than suffering a sexual assault in silence."

Other states, like New Jersey and Missouri, are working to change their laws, as well.

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