Liz Friedman: Mass. should pass bill to end child marriages

  • The Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston. AP photo

Published: 4/13/2019 1:20:29 AM

In Massachusetts it is legal for a child to be married under the age of 18 with parental consent and a judge’s approval, even though she is not legally allowed to obtain the services of an attorney should she want to file for divorce, cannot file a restraining order if she feels unsafe and needs protection from her spouse, and cannot access a battered woman’s shelter if she is abused.

She can marry, but she cannot access any protections available to other married people in the commonwealth because she is not of legal age. Most of the children who marry with parental consent in the commonwealth are girls marrying adult men.

The domestic violence rates for children who marry are three times the average than for women who marry between the ages of 19-25. They are more likely to not complete high school, have quick succession of pregnancies, cannot easily access health care and have little to no control over their own reproductive lives.

In fact, teenagers who become pregnant and remain single have better health outcomes than those who marry.

Shame on us as a nation that child marriage is allowed. We can remedy this in the commonwealth and become the third state in the country to do so, following Delaware and New Jersey. There is a bill before the Massachusetts Legislature to end child marriage in Massachusetts.

I urge the western Massachusetts delegation of legislators to fully support this bill and ensure that it moves forward quickly so that we can stand in accord with the international community in condemning child marriage as the human rights violation that it is.

Liz Friedman

Northampton




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