The state of New York officially outlawed child marriage today, the result of a years-long campaign to make it illegal for people under the age of 18 to be married.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed two bills into law raising the official age of consent to get married to 18 years old.
“This is a major step forward in our efforts to protect children and prevent forced marriages,” Cuomo said.
The previous law allowed children as young as 14 to marry with a judge’s approval, and 16 with a parent’s approval.
Between 2001 to 2010, 3,850 children under 18 married in New York State, according to Human Rights Watch.
“Child marriage is a dirty secret in the US, and other states should follow New York’s example by enacting laws to help end this harmful practice,” said Heather Barr, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Human Rights Watch campaigned for years to get the law changed in New York. It grabbed headlines last year after it staged a stunt in Times Square where a young girl, dressed in a wedding dress, appeared to be the bride of a much older man.
Other states are taking similar actions. In June 2016 Virginia passed a law making child marriage illegal, and just last week, Texas made a similar provision. California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania are all have bills proposing the outlawing of child marriage. New Jersey almost passed a bill outlawing child marriage last month, but the bill was vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie.
Child marriage is a global issue — as many as 700 million women worldwide were married as girls.
Child marriage is considering contributor to the poverty cycle. Girls who marry young often don’t complete school, are more likely to experience domestic violence, and are at a higher risk of dying from pregnancy and childbirth.
Global Citizen and CHIME FOR CHANGE’s #LeveltheLaw campaign, with Equality Now, seeks to abolish these laws which lead to the unfair treatment of girls and women around the world. You can take action here.