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United States

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
n/a
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
n/a

* References

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)

Photo credit: Unchained at Last | Susan Landmann

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
n/a
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
n/a

* References

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)

What's the child marriage rate? How big of an issue is child marriage?

There is no publicly available government data on child marriage in the United States.

Internationally there is growing recognition that child marriage is a human rights violation and a severe impediment to social and economic development. As a leading donor for international development, the United States can play an important role in the global movement to end child marriage.

The Trump administration’s 2018 budget has proposed complete elimination of all funding for reproductive health and family planning, which could have a detrimental impact on efforts internationally to address child marriage.

Are there country-specific drivers of child marriage in this country?

Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that women and girls are somehow inferior to men and boys.

There is limited information on child marriage in the United States.
In February 2017, a study by Girls Not Brides member Unchained at Last who are based in the US revealed that over 248,000 children had been married there between 2000 and 2010, mostly to adult men.

In the U.S federal system, state legislatures set the minimum age of marriage for each state. The minimum age in most states is 18, but exceptions in every state allow those younger than 18 to marry. Laws in 23 states do not set a minimum age below which a child cannot marry, meaning that those states’ laws are weaker than child marriage laws in countries like Afghanistan, Honduras and Malawi.

What has this country committed to?

The United States has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The United States co-sponsored the 2015 Human Rights Council resolution to end child, early and forced marriage, recognising that it is a violation of human rights.

The United States co-sponsored the 2013 and 2014 UN General Assembly resolutions on child, early and forced marriage, and the 2013 Human Rights Council resolution on child, early and forced marriage. In 2014, the United States signed a joint statement at the Human Rights Council calling for a resolution on child marriage.

The United States signed, but is one of few countries not yet to have ratified, the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1995, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18. In 1980 the United States signed, but has not yet ratified, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1981, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

What is the government doing to address this at the national level?

In March 2016, the U.S. State Department adopted the Global Strategy To Empower Adolescent Girls which includes specific provisions on ending child marriage and addressing the needs of married girls globally due to the ongoing advocacy of Girls Not Brides USA.

This meets the requirement of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 that the U.S. Secretary of State must “establish and implement a multi-year, multi-sectoral strategy to end child marriage.”

The government is also addressing child marriage through:

  • Let Girls Learn, an initiative that addresses barriers to education, including child marriage.
  • Developmental assistance programmes at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) which address child marriage in order to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The USAID Vision for Action on Ending Child Marriage and Meeting the Needs of Married Children is a strong step forward in addressing the root causes of this harmful practice. USAID’s Resource Guide outlines how the government and other countries can address child, early and forced marriage through multi-sectoral and sector-specific approaches.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

In the US federal system, state legislatures set the minimum age of marriage for each state. The minimum age of marriage in most US states is 18, but exceptions in every state allow those younger than 18 to marry.

In May 2018, Delaware’s governor signed a bill prohibiting all marriages before the age of 18, becoming the first US state to prohibit all forms of child marriage. New Jersey followed in June 2018, passing legislation to raise the legal age to 18.

Girls Not Brides members are building coalitions in multiple states to address the legal loopholes that allow for the marriage of minors through parental or judicial consent.

Source

Human Rights Watch, Delaware ends child marriage; 49 to go and counting, [website], 2018, https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/05/10/delaware-ends-child-marriage-49-go-and-counting (accessed May 2018)

International Women’s Health Coalition, Trump’s 2018 Budget Wages War on Women, [website], 2017,
https://iwhc.org/2017/05/trumps-2018-budget-wages-war-women/ (accessed June 2018)

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Joint statement on child, early and forced marriage, HRC 27, Agenda Item 3, [website], 2014,
http://fngeneve.um.dk/en/aboutus/statements/newsdisplaypage/?newsid=6371ad93-8fb0-4c35-b186-820fa996d379 (accessed April 2018)

United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg5 (accessed February 2018)

United States Agency for International Development, CHILD, EARLY, AND FORCED MARRIAGE RESOURCE GUIDE, 2015, https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1865/USAID_CEFM_Resource-Guide.PDF (accessed June 2018)

United States Agency for International Development, ENDING CHILD MARRIAGE & MEETING THE NEEDS OF MARRIED CHILDREN: THE USAID VISION FOR ACTION, 2012, https://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PDACU300.pdf (accessed June 2018)

United States State Department, Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls, 2016, http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/254904.pdf (accessed May 2018)

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)

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Girls Not Brides USA is the official Girls Not Brides National Partnership in the United States.

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