Darrin Bell’s April 2 cartoon “Candorville” sought to put the 15-year Afghanistan war in context by noting that it would be old enough to marry with parental consent in some U.S. states. That’s context in need of context. Based on the Tahirih Justice Center’s analysis, the United States’ outdated child marriage laws are more shameful than the cartoon suggested. For example, four states set lower age minimums, allowing 14-year-olds (and in New Hampshire, 13-year-old girls) to marry. Even worse, 27 other states have no age minimum. And 16- and 17-year-olds can often marry with parental consent alone, no questions asked, though a “marriage” can be hiding abuse. Some states also make exceptions to allow marriage in case of pregnancy — a potential red flag for rape or statutory rape. This is especially alarming because girls who are abused are six times more likely to become pregnant; girls who become pregnant are most likely to face pressure or coercion to marry; and girls who are forced to marry often face a lifetime of abuse and rape. Bottom line: While child marriage is no laughing matter, most states’ minimum marriage-age laws are laughable in how they turn a blind eye to child protection.
Jeanne Smoot, Washington
The writer is senior counsel for policy and strategy at the
Tahirih Justice Center.