The Rate Of Child Marriages In America Is Alarming

We can close these loopholes

In a PSA aimed to raise awareness about child marriage, YouTube star Coby Persin staged a fake wedding in NYC to the alarm of many passersby. (Image via YouTube)

Child marriage, most Westerners would assume, happens only in far-flung countries where women’s rights—let alone rights for children—are a foreign concept. Most Americans would be shocked to learn that legal marriages between adolescent girls as young as 12 and adult men happen on our own democratic turf—and they’re happening right now.

It’s true that most U.S. states set the age of consent between 16 and 18. However, legal loopholes in just about every one enable adults to have sex with minors and avoid statutory rape charges, thanks to judicially approved marriages and laws that have gone untouched since the 1970s. Although few thorough investigations have been conducted, the Tahirih Justice Center discovered tens of thousands of children were married in the last decade. In Virginia alone, 4,474 children aged 13 and up (the vast majority female) were married between 2004 and 2013. This problem runs just as deep in New York, where state data shows 3,853 children were married between 2000 and 2010, many younger than their spouses by a decade or more.

Fraidy Reiss, founder and director of Unchained At Last, an organization dedicated to ending forced marriages in the United States, says child marriages can be found across religions, generations, and socioeconomic backgrounds. As a victim of an arranged marriage herself, Reiss knows the profound effects marriage has on a child—from stunted educational opportunities to poor healthcare and violence—as well as how difficult it is for young women to achieve independence once they’ve been trapped in a marriage. As unbelievable as it sounds, current laws state that a child under 18 can get married, but she must wait until adulthood to file for divorce.

Dangerous legal contradictions like these can, however, be easily fixed. For instance, this past March, the Tahirih Justice Center helped pass a law in Virginia that permits only emancipated minors aged 16 or 17 to obtain marriage licenses, following a lengthy investigation. By writing letters to state legislators that draw attention to this problem, we can close these loopholes and finally bring an end to child marriage in America.

To learn more about the state of child marriage in the United States and how to prevent it, head over to Unchained At Last.


The global climate change strikes on Friday are said to have been the largest protest for climate change in history. An estimated four million people participated in 2,500 events across 163 countries on all seven continents. That included an estimated 300,000 Australians, but a total of zero were in Hyde Park in Sydney, despite a viral photo that claims otherwise.

Australian Youth Coal Coalition, a pro-coal Facebook page, posted a photo showing trash strewn across a park after what appears to have been a large event. "Look at the mess today's climate protesters left behind in beautiful Hyde Park," the photo was captioned. "So much plastic. So much landfill. So sad." The only problem is, the photo wasn't taken after a climate change protest. It wasn't even taken in Australia.

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via GOOD / YouTube

Last Friday, millions of people in 150 countries across the globe took to the streets to urge world leaders to enact dramatic solutions to combat climate change.

The Climate Strike was inspired, in part, by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl from Sweden who has captured worldwide attention for her tireless work to hold lawmakers responsible for the climate crisis.

The strike gave people across the planet the opportunity to make their voices heard before the U.N. General Assembly Climate Summit in New York City on Monday.

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Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

As world leaders meet to discuss new ways to tackle climate change at the U.N. Climate Action Summit, they might miss one very big part of healing nature – nature. In a new short film, youth climate change activist Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot, a writer for the Guardian, talked about how we need to use nature as a solution to climate change.

There's a huge push to curb emissions, but it's not the be all end all of handling climate change; we also need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. While we don't have technology to do that for us, there is another solution. "There is a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It's called a tree," Monboit says in the film. Researchers found that we could get rid of two-thirds of the carbon dioxide that we've emitted during the industrial era just by growing trees. That amounts to 205 billion tons of carbon. Right now, deforestation of tropical forests is responsible for 20% of current greenhouse emissions.

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Climate Action Tracker

In 2016, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to combat climate change by taking action to curb the increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement requires countries to report on their emissions and what steps they're taking to implement those plans. Now that the countries are coming together again for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City, it's worth taking a look at what kind of progress they've made.

The Climate Action Trackerkeeps tabs on what each country is doing to limit warming, and if they're meeting their self-set goals. Countries are graded based on whether or not their actions would help limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

According to a recent article from National Geographic, The Gambia, Morocco, and India are at the head of the class. "Even though carbon emissions in The Gambia, Morocco, and India are expected to rise, they'll fall short of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius limit," the article reads. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, on the other hand, get a big fat F. "Projected emissions in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are far greater than what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

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Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

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