Ohio May Change ‘16th Century’ Child Marriage Laws
Current Ohio law enables girls to marry at age if they are pregnant.
Ohio is on the verge of reforming its child marriage laws that currently allow girls of any age to marry, but lawmakers need to first pass a bill introduced last September.
After recent reports by the Dayton Daily News detailed the prevalence of child marriage across the state, Ohio lawmakers in the state house and senate took up the cause and introduced legislation that would counter current marriage laws.
But the bills have stalled.
According to the Dayton Daily News, 4,443 girls under 18 — including 59 girls 15 or younger — got married in Ohio between 2000 and 2014. During the same period, 301 boys younger than 18 got married, the Dayton Daily News also reports.
Ohio state law mandates that brides be at least 16 to marry with parental consent but provides exceptions for “extenuating circumstances” like pregnancy. That means a girl any age can legally marry in Ohio.
According to Unchained at Last, an organization that advocates to end child marriage, nearly 250,000 US children — some as young as 10 — were married between 2000 and 2010. Of these, only 14% of children married other children, the Independent reports.
Throughout the US, girls younger than 16 occasionally marry older men to prevent the men from facing statutory rape charges or because they are bound by arranged marriages.
“Shame on Ohio for having 16th century laws still on the books,” Fraidy Reiss, the director of Unchained At Last, told the Dayton Daily News.
Those laws could change in Ohio if the state Senate and House of Representatives pass a bill that would prohibit marriage for children under 16. The bill would still allow 16 and 17 year olds to marry with parental and judicial consent.
The US leaves marriage age laws up to individual states. And unlike countries throughout Western Europe, Asia, and North Africa, many states set relatively low minimum marriage ages, leading to girls as young as 14 being married with parental consent.
Global Citizen campaigns on ensuring gender equality and ending child marriage, which primarily affects girls. You can take action on this issue here.
Read More: New York Has Finally Outlawed Child Marriage
Women and girls who marry at 21 or younger experience worse mental and physical health, have lower levels of education, and earn less money than those who marry later, according to a report by the College of William and Mary Law School.
Roughly 80% of teen marriages end in divorce, which leads to even worse economic and health outcomes for young women and their children, the report states.