Child Marriage (1 Viewer)

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    Optimus Prime

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    How is this still a thing? And stil a thing in so many states?
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    Courtney Kosnik was 16 when she met the man who would become her husband in a Detroit coffee shop. She thought she’d met her savior.

    She was living in poverty, under the care of an alcoholic mother who struggled to hold down jobs. He promised her stability. Two months later, he proposed.

    No one in Kosnik’s life seemed bothered by the fact that the man was 28, more than a decade older than his bride-to-be, and he had a plan to get around her status as a legal minor: they just needed her mother’s permission to wed, and if she didn’t give it, they could always drive down to Ohio, where the rules around marriage were less strict.

    Kosnik’s mother didn’t need much convincing. The man seemed polished and friendly, and he said that he could provide a “better moral upbringing” for her daughter.

    “Isn’t it crazy that someone wanted to give their wife a ‘moral upbringing’?” Kosnik, now 47, said. “I should have already been raised before I got married.”

    On their wedding day in 1993, 10 guests watched a teenage Kosnik marry her adult fiance. Most of the man’s family made appearances, with one notable exception.

    “His uncle was a priest who married every single one of their family members for decades, but he would not consent to marry us because of the age difference,” Kosnik recalled.

    Any hopes Kosnik had of a better life with her husband were dashed on their wedding night, when he became physically violent for the first time. “Almost instantly, I wanted out of my marriage,” she said.

    But her husband controlled all their finances and kept a close eye on who she spoke to. When she tried to file for divorce six years into their marriage, he took their first child out of state, saying he wouldn’t come back until she changed her mind.……

    However, child marriage, which activists describe as one or both parties entering a union while under age 18, remains legal in 37 US states. There are no federal laws against it, meaning minors can marry, with parental consent, before they can vote, drink, or buy lottery tickets in the majority of the country.

    Some states have a minimum marriage age on the books, which ranges from 15 to 18. Four states – California, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Mississippi – do not specify any minimum age at all.

    Many survivors say they felt trapped in their marriages. Some, like Kosnik, must rely on their spouses for financial support. Others are up against complicit parents, who sign off on forced unions.

    In many states, statutory rape is not a crime within marriage, creating a legal loophole that entices predators and increases the likelihood of sexual abuse. “Child marriage can be seen as a workaround for child rape,” said Fraidy Reiss, founder of Unchained at Last…..

    Close to 300,000 minors were married between 2000 and 2018 in the US, according to a studyconducted by Unchained at Last; a small number of them were as young as 10.

    Because 78% of minors who wed in that timespan were girls with adult husbands, advocates frame their cause around saving underage girls from older men.

    So far this year, survivors have successfully campaigned to get child marriage taken off the books in three states, marking steady progress towards their goal of ending child marriage completely in the US by 2030.

    But, Reiss says, indifference is a challenge: “It’s been difficult to get legislators to pay attention to the issue and to take the simple, commonsense step of saying you have to be 18 to marry, the same way you have to be 18 to enter into almost any other contract.”

    Advocates also face interference from a seemingly odd cohort: rightwing politicians who are using child marriage as ammunition in their war on reproductive rights, and left-leaning organizations who say they are defending the rights of young people by protecting the legality of child marriage…….

    Reiss and the survivors who campaign with her are known for their dramatic activism; the women go to state legislatures wearing wedding dresses and chains to symbolize their trauma.

    Thirteen states, plus the US Virgin Islands and American Samoa territories, have banned child marriage since 2017, in large part due to the survivors’ efforts.

    Some bans are stronger than others.

    In 2019, Utah raised its marriage age from 15 to 16, which Unchained at Last categorizes as “weak”.

    Other states, such as New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, completely ended child marriage, meaning it’s illegal for anyone to marry under the age of 18, regardless of parental consent.

    In April, Virginia became the first state in the south to ban child marriage; Washington and New Hampshire also passed bans this year……

    Kosnik, the Michigan survivor, said that most of the pushback she received in her state came from more conservative lawmakers.

    Appropriating the language of the reproductive rights movement, they argued that a young girl should have the “choice” to get married, citing various scenarios: what about a pregnant teen who wants to marry the baby’s father? Or a girl whose slightly older boyfriend is about to deploy overseas?

    They also attempted to turn the law into a culture war issue: the Michigan state senator Jim Runestad unsuccessfully tried to slip a ban on allowing minors access to puberty blockers into the law, while the state representative Matt Maddock used a transphobic slur to drive the point home.

    “The same people who put [trans issues] in elementary schools and libraries are suddenly hyper-moralistic about 17 year old High School Sweethearts getting married, I don’t get it,” he said in a statement sent to the local outlet Michigan Advance.

    “This is not about young love,” countered Reiss. “That’s bullshirt.”

    Republicans have likewise latched on to the idea that allowing child marriage will decrease the frequency of abortions. That’s the reason a ban on the practice has stalled in Missouri.

    The state representative Hardy Billington, an opponent of the ban, told the Kansas City Star:

    “My opinion is that if someone [wants to] get married at 17, and they’re going to have a baby, and they cannot get married, then … chances of abortion are extremely high.”

    The state representative Jess Edwards of New Hampshire, who voted against the ultimately successful ban in that state, argued that teens are of “ripe, fertile age” and marriage could be an alternative for abortion.

    He asked: “Are we not in fact making abortion a much more desirable alternative, when marriage might be the right solution for some freedom-loving couple?”

    Kosnik describes lobbying these politicians as making her feel like she was speaking to “people from the 1950s”……..

     

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