by Marsha Rakestraw
When she was 11-years-old in the 1970s, Sherry Johnson was forced to marry the 20-year-old man who had raped her.
At 17, one of my relatives married his 14-year-old girlfriend, with parental permission.
While child marriage is often associated with developing countries, Westernized countries, like the US, also allow child marriage.
According to Frontline calculations, between 2000 and 2015, more than 200,000 minors were married in the US, some as young as 10-years-old.
Currently, child marriage (those under 18) is legal in some form in all 50 US states.
And while states like Texas, Virginia, Kentucky, Florida, and Tennessee are working to strengthen their child marriage laws, in many states there is still no minimum marriage age when one of the exceptions (such as parental consent) is met.
In most child marriages, the minor is a female marrying an adult man.
Research shows that children who marry have increased risk for abuse, poverty, lack of education, disease onset, sexually transmitted disease, risk from pregnancy, and more.
The good news, according to a 2018 UNICEF report, is that child marriages are on the decline (though currently more than 12 million girls under 18 are married each year).
Child marriage is connected to a variety of issues, from women’s rights and poverty, to education and the economy, to human trafficking and violence against women and children.
To help you and your students better understand and explore issues related to child marriage, use our curated collection of Child Marriage resources (via Pinterest).