The child bride epidemic

Aanya Agarwal, Opinions Editor

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When the average American teen thinks of marriage, a myriad of things come to mind: white gowns, churches, saying “I do”. For some kids, however, the idea of a perfect wedding remains just that: an idea.

According to an article in The Independant “More than 200,000 children were married in the US over the past 15 years, new figures have revealed”. Although it’s technically not legal to marry under 18, legal loopholes in every state allow for the perpetuation of this antiquated and often dangerous practice.

Multiple narratives from women who experienced the trauma firsthand reveal how young marriage is often not consensual or even safe for the girl at hand. In fact, many older males who would normally be charged with statutory rape take advantage of the legal loopholes to make it perfectly legal.

One such loophole is explained in a report by Tahirih Justice Center, which states that “Twenty-five states do not set a minimum age at which a person can get married, and eight more set it at an age lower than 16”.

As for the health effects of marriage at a young age, the prospects aren’t good. A recent article by Renate van der Zee in the Guardian states, “Girls who get married before 18 have a significantly higher risk of heart attacks, cancer, diabetes and strokes and a higher risk of psychiatric disorders”. That means the practice of child marriage is not just a societal issue that needs to be corrected.

It’s an epidemic.

Defenders of child marriage argue everything from the necessity of upholding tradition to preventing more abortions by ensuring a child isn’t born outside of a marriage. The question we must ask them then is: is it worth it? Is tradition really worth more than the millions of girls literally being killed by a life they did not chose?

To the people who continue to support child marriage I say; make it your problem. Disrupt tradition. Understand that, despite your political views, a 12 year old is not fit to carry or raise a child they were forced to have.

Child marriage continues when we, as a society, turn a blind eye to the pain of girls all around us because it’s more convenient than actually taking a stand against the systems of power that allow men to take advantage of our sisters, daughters, and friends.

Even the smallest of steps, such as tweeting about the epidemic can make a huge difference in the lives of women all over America. If you were looking to do something more intensive, countless movements (such as Unchained At Last) exist to combat this very issue. You could even contact your political representative and talk about ways to minimize legal loopholes that allow for the preservation of child marriage.

It’s time we speak up for the oppressed girls who can’t speak for themselves and protect future generations from the pain millions of girls experience right now. The epidemic has raged long enough. It’s time to fight for a solution.