Child Marriage Still Exists: How This NY Assemblywoman Is Pushing for Change

Eighty-four percent of the 3,853 minors married in New York between 2000 and 2010 were minor girls married to adult men.

Today, the minimum age to marry in New York is still 14.

Pressures of religion, tradition, and economic status are keeping child marriage alive, allowing adults to sexually abuse children.

Democratic Assemblywoman Amy Paulin is looking to change that by introducing a bill that will raise the minimum age of marriage in New York to 17.

"I can't even begin to imaging the physical, psychological and emotional traumas these children have suffered," Paulin said. "We must safeguard the heath, safety and welfare of our children, who are the future of our society."

On Tuesday, advocates from Unchained At Last, a nonprofit to end forced marriage, stood with Human Rights Watch, dressed in white gowns with wrists chained together outside the New York State Assembly, The New York Times reports. They hoped to portray the life of a child bride: one of entrapment.

"Save the girls. Be the change. Help us to break the chains," the group chanted.

Founder and executive director of Unchained At Last, Fraidy Reiss, stressed the long-lasting, devastating effects of child marriage, "undermining her health, education and economic opportunities and increasing her risk of experiencing violence."

Safia Mahjebin, 20 is an intern at Sanctuary for Families, New York's leading service provider and advocate for survivors of sex trafficking, domestic violence, and related forms of gender violence. Mahjebin had a close friend forced into marriage with a 25-year-old man when they were just 16 and now she works to combat child marriage. 

In 5th grade, Mahjebin was told by her father that she was going to be sent back to her native Bangladesh in order to marry. 

However, she credits her safety from child marriage to a U.S. law and says: "My immediate response was betrayal because I thought for so long that this country and our laws have protected me from child marriage from when I was 10 to when I was 18" after finding out New York law allows marriage at 14.

She continued: "Allowing marriages under the age of 18 is not about being culturally or religiously sensitive. It's not about people’s happiness. It's about children's rights."

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Photo Credit: Twitter/ Unchained At Last