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Virginia and child marriage – is an end in sight?

  • Published on
    February 9, 2024
  • Category:
    Forced Marriage
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Virginian lawmakers are considering a bill that would remove all exceptions to getting married before the age of 18, as reported by NBC4 Washington. This could make Virginia the 11th state in the U.S. to completely ban child marriages.

Married and two kids at 17

Brigitte Combs was pregnant when she was married off at age 15, to a much older man she was set up for religious reasons by her mother. The marriage was legal – her parents signed the necessary documents. Being a mother of two at 17, she soon realized that this was not the life she wanted.

“I can’t go to my parents. I’m not old enough to file for divorce. I don’t even have a driver’s license.” – Brigitte Combs, survivor of and advocate against child marriage

She left her partner and was homeless at 18 and got divorced at 20. Today, she advocates for the complete ban on child marriage in Virginia.

Progress halted in Virginia

Virginia once led the nation by restricting marriage to legal adults in 2016. However, through a complex legal procedure, 16- and 17-year-olds were still able to obtain approval to marry. According to VPM, child marriage is possible upon a judge deciding that it is “in the best interests of the minor to be emancipated.” The judge must then determine that the minor is making this decision freely, “is mature enough to get married” and their safety is guaranteed.

“Forced or not, it sets people up for devastating short- and long-term consequences, and in fact, delaying marriage to 18 or beyond will set all people up to be better off.” – Casey Swegman, Tahirih Justice Center Director of Public Policy

The proposed bill could close any remaining loopholes that allow children below 18 to get married under any circumstances. At Freedom United, we stand against child marriage – find out more here. And join us in demanding an end to forced child marriage all around the world.

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