Progress to end forced child marriages in California stalled - FreedomUnited.org

Progress to end forced child marriages in California stalled

  • Published on
    May 24, 2024
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    Forced Marriage
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California was on the verge of taking significant steps toward ending forced child marriages, but the opposition has now threatened this progress. Actress Alyssa Milano and Fraidy Reiss, Founder of our partner Unchained At Last, spoke to The Mercury News to showcase the problem with forced child marriages.

Reform efforts blocked

After Assembly member Ash Kalra of San Jose called for amendments that critics argue would undermine a pivotal bill designed to set the minimum age for marriage at 18, this bill is now at risk of stalling without a hearing in the Judiciary Committee, which Kalra chairs. Despite the bill’s extensive support, including endorsements from the California Teachers Association and the Legislative Women’s Caucus, it faces unexpected opposition from within the state, including the ACLU of California and Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, who argue that the ban might push minors in abusive relationships out of reach of social services.

Why we advocate to end child marriages

Advocating to end child marriages is critical because these unions often conceal egregious violations of children’s rights “hiding in plain sight,” according to Casey Swegman from the Tahirih Justice Center. Child marriages are imposed for various reasons, including controlling female sexuality, “correcting” a person’s sexuality, or concealing statutory rape, cutting across all communities regardless of religious or socioeconomic backgrounds. Swegman highlights the inherent imbalance in these relationships, where minors are legally bound to adults who possess far greater life experience and understanding of their rights, leading to fundamentally exploitative dynamics from the start:

“When we think about a child who is entering a legal contract with an adult, an adult who has years more life experience, who better understands their rights and resources, you are entering an imbalanced relationship from day one, whether its forced or not.”

Moreover, some minors view marriage as an escape from challenging home environments marked by addiction or unmet mental health needs, yet they often transition from one perilous situation to another, a shift that almost invariably includes sexual abuse. These marriages isolate children from supportive networks like family and friends, exposing them to predatory adults who exploit their vulnerability. This exploitation is exacerbated in California, where the absence of a minimum marriage age allows adults, both domestic and foreign, to marry minors, significantly facilitating trafficking and abuse under the guise of marriage. Establishing a minimum marriage age of 18 is thus essential to protect the rights and well-being of children, ensuring they have the opportunity to mature independently and access higher education, free from the coercive and abusive constraints of forced marriage.

In the words of Alyssa Milano and Fraidy Reiss,

California needs to ban child marriages. Kalra must give the bill, AB 2924, a hearing. California girls deserve at least that much.

All girls do! Join the movement to end forced child marriages in the U.S. by signing our petition!

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