In another step toward ending child marriage in the US, Arizona’s Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill on Wednesday setting the minimum age of marriage at 16, the Associated Press reported.
Previously, a child could be married in Arizona at any age with the permission of a parent.
Similar laws were recently passed in Kentucky and Florida earlier this year, though not a single US state can claim to have banned child marriage yet.
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Child marriage is still legal in some form in all 50 states. While many states have set the minimum age of marriage at 16 or 18, legal loopholes allow children much younger to get married. In several states, children can be married before their 18th birthdays with the permission of a judge or parent, or in the case of pregnancy.
According to the nonprofit Unchained At Last, nearly 250,000 children were married in the US between 2000 and 2010. Some were as young as 10 years old, PBS Frontline reported.
Of the nearly quarter of a million children married between 2000 and 2010, more than 4,700 were married in Arizona.
Read more: Yes, Forced Child Marriages Happen in the US, Too
While the passing of the bill represents an important step toward stopping child marriage Arizona, children’s and women’s rights activists have advocated for the minimum age of marriage to be firmly set at 18, without exceptions.
Though such a law has yet to be adopted by any state in the US, activists remain hopeful.
Globally, 650 million girls and women alive today were married as children, according to Girls Not Brides. The highest incidences of child marriage occur in West and Central Africa, though India has the largest number of married children in the world, UNICEF reported.
Around the world, child marriage is often motivated by poverty, particularly in cultures where girls are seen as financial burdens are not valued as equals to males.
Global Citizen campaigns in support of gender equality and against child marriage, which disproportionately affects girls. You can take action here to call on lawmakers to put an end to child marriage.