Latest modern slavery fight updates -

Child marriage in U.S. leaving children vulnerable to abuse

  • Published on
    March 13, 2023
  • Category:
    Forced Marriage
Hero Banner

Child marriage is still legal in the U.S. Minors, defined by the UN as someone under the age of 18, are able to be married under certain conditions in 43 states. Shockingly, seven of these states have no minimum age requirement at all. Despite campaigning efforts, the practice is banned with no exceptions in just seven states.

U.S. domestic law lagging behind

The U.S. government often campaigns globally to end the practice of child marriage while its domestic legislation continues to permit the practice.

Child marriage across the globe not only puts minors at increased risk of abuse but also limits their ability to pursue opportunities, such as an education. Young girls are overwhelmingly more vulnerable to the practice, and an estimated 12 million girls are married every year globally. The risk of forced child marriage increases where parents and family members are able to pressure a child into marriage against their will. 

Recent events like COVID-19 have placed more children at risk of forced marriage as their families struggle to make ends meet.

Council on Foreign Relations reports:

UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned that an additional 10 million girls could face child marriage by the end of the decade because of the pandemic.

Between 2000 and 2018, an estimated 300,000 girls – some as young as 10 – were married to older men in the U.S. The younger a child is, the less control they have to give their free consent to marriage and the more vulnerable they may be to forced marriage.

Without federal legislation banning child marriage and only seven states banning the practice, the U.S. has a lot of work to do better protect children within its own borders.

In California, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lobbied against a ban, reasoning that banning underage marriage:

“unnecessarily and unduly intrudes on the fundamental rights of marriage without sufficient cause,” adding that “largely banning marriage under 18, before we have evidence regarding the nature and severity of the problem, however, puts the cart before the horse.”

CFR argues that opposition on this basis contradicts the reasoning for government imposed age restrictions on other matters such as preventing children from being able to vote or purchase alcohol.

The U.S. opens itself up to justified criticism and hypocrisy given its conflicting stance on child marriage at home and abroad. Children need to be protected from forced marriage everywhere, including in nations like the U.S.

Take action against forced marriage!

Sign the petition calling on all governments to end forced marriage NOW!


Freedom United is interested in hearing from our community and welcomes relevant, informed comments, advice, and insights that advance the conversation around our campaigns and advocacy. We value inclusivity and respect within our community. To be approved, your comments should be civil.

stop icon A few things we do not tolerate: comments that promote discrimination, prejudice, racism, or xenophobia, as well as personal attacks or profanity. We screen submissions in order to create a space where the entire Freedom United community feels safe to express and exchange thoughtful opinions.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

This week

How migrants become scapegoats for hostile border tragedies

On June 14, 2023, a fishing trawler named Adriana capsized off the southwestern coast of Greece, leading to a catastrophic loss of life. The Vessel, which departed from Libya, was carrying up to 700 migrants from Pakistan, Syria, and Egypt, all desperately seeking a better life. This tragic incident not only highlights the perilous journeys that migrants are forced to undertake but also exposes the harsh realities and failures of current border

| Monday May 27, 2024

Read more