Lawmakers in the U.S. state of Washington have unanimously passed House Bill 1455, a proposal to ban child marriage on the first day of the first legislative session, as reported by The Spokesman-Review. The bill now awaits introduction into the state Senate. Washington could thus become the 11th state to ban child marriage.
Closing legal gaps and protecting Washington youth
Child marriage, still legally permitted in Washington, faces potential prohibition as state lawmakers advance a bill aimed at banning marriages for anyone under the age of 18. Presently, children of any age can marry, with 17-year-olds requiring parental consent and younger individuals needing approval from a judge. The existing law lacks clarity on what constitutes a “necessity” for marriage below the age of 17. Representative Monica Stonier, the prime sponsor of the bill, highlights the need for a comprehensive ban, emphasizing that vague legalities can lead to coercive or abusive relationships, depriving young individuals of necessary legal services and support.
“Young people who are married before they are legal adults do not have access to the full range of legal services, counseling, therapy, financial support they might need if they were in a coercive or abusive relationship.” – Rep. Monica Stonier
Important step forward
As the Washington State House of Representatives unanimously passes the bill to ban child marriages, legislators recognize the broader implications of such unions. About four out of every 1,000 minors between the ages of 15 and 17 are married in Washington, according to a 2016 report. Representative Jim Walsh asserts the bill’s importance, acknowledging that minors cannot consent to all life choices, and urging his colleagues to support the ban. This move aligns with a growing national trend, with ten states already banning child marriage.
“What this bill does is acknowledge that minor children cannot consent to all of life’s choices.” – Rep. Jim WalshTop of Form
Despite variations in prevalence across states, the issue persists nationwide, impacting the well-being and legal rights of minors. And it is not just the United States that still allows child marriage, the issue is worldwide. Join us in demanding an end to forced child marriage throughout the world!