By Wisdom Olobayo
The year is 2023, and the paragon of enlightenment and freedom, the Statue of Liberty, marks its 137th year on the grounds of New York Harbour, New York City, U.S.A. But the year seems to be just like the years before it, marked by the overt subjugation of women, the pursuance of the ‘commonisation’ of laws that were once morally unsound, and the unending disregard and violation of the innocence and blessedness of children and of their childhood.
In a sovereign state where the selling word has always been “liberty”, the freedom and futures of millions of children have been compromised and for some 300,000 of them in the last two decades, theirs have been aggressively ripped off of them by child marriage laws.
To put this in simple terms: child marriage is back by law in the United States! (More like it never left).
According to a report by Unchained At Last, girls as little as 10 are legally being thrown into marriage in the US.
- 86% of the children that have been married off to older men in the US are girls.
- 10 states in the US have no minimum marriage age whatsoever.
- 16 states in the US permit 14, 15 and 16 year olds to be married off.
- Another 16 states in the US permit 16 and 17 year olds to get married, albeit with proof of age. This means that a child can present her original birth certificate revealing that she’s a child and still be issued a marriage certificate in these states.
- Only 7 states in the US have set the bar for marriage at 18 with a compulsory provision of proof of age.
An important irony, worthy of note, which sums up the blatant defiance and deafness of the United States to the tenets of liberty declared boldly on the standard of freedom we raise is that three US states; Alabama, Alaska, and Mississippi, have the legal age of adulthood set at 19, 19, and 21, respectively. Yet, in all three states, child marriage is permissible under the law.
“Many states appear to set the minimum age (for marriage) at 18, but allow 16 and 17 year-olds to get married if they meet certain criteria like parental consent, judicial approval, the emancipation of the minor, or pregnancy.” – Brown Political Review
One would assume that the world’s poster boy for freedom would in fact champion the change beginning from the very glaring issues, namely; child marriage. But this is not about them, it’s about the underreporting of this repugnant evil. It’s about the many times girls are forcibly given away to men under the guise of barbaric laws. It’s about the many children who are robbed of a proper childhood and of dreams of their own making. It’s about the fact that the leading cause of death among 15-19 year-olds worldwide is childbirth complications, with many more certain to follow under the avoidant eye of the justice system.
And when will it end? Where’s the outrage? Where are the legislators? In India, Nigeria, Brazil, Bangladesh, Niger, Central African Republic, in Serbia, In Turkey—700 million females living around the world were given out in marriage before the age of 18 (UNICEF, 2016); almost a 10th of the current world population. Every minute, 22 girls on average are given out in marriage.
Why are women immediately at a disadvantage by the law as soon as they are born?