Over the last few months, the debate around U.S. immigration policy has been on our minds and in the news every single day. As communities across the country respond to a rapidly shifting landscape, Tahirih has significantly increased its investment in serving and advocating for protections for immigrant victims of violence, thanks to the Emergency Fund to which so many of you contributed.
While that work progresses, we are driving forward another ongoing campaign — to end forced marriage in the United States, starting with changing antiquated state laws that still make child marriage legal in this country. Our policy team is working hard to ensure that children can no longer be forced or coerced into marriage and to protect children from the devastating, lifelong consequences that can result from child marriage.
Astoundingly, child marriage is a real problem in the United States, affecting thousands of children each year. Girls as young as 12 have been allowed to be legally married, sometimes to much older men.
After conducting a thorough analysis of the laws that make this possible, Tahirih is working state-by-state to ensure that adequate legal protections are in place to prevent this threat to girls’ health and human rights.
Just last year, we succeeded in achieving a new law in Virginia to ensure that only adults (age 18 or older, or court-emancipated minors) could be married. And now, we are providing legal expertise and advocacy on bills in California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
In March alone, Tahirih:
- Supported a courageous former Tahirih client as she gave incredibly powerful testimony about her own painful forced marriage at age 16 in support of a Maryland bill to make 18 the minimum age of marriage, and reached out directly to all 188 Members of the legislature;
- Secured bi-partisan champions for a bill in Texas that would require parties to be 18 or older (or court-emancipated) before they could marry;
- Submitted written testimony in hearings on a bill to make 18 the minimum age of marriage in Connecticut
- Prepared talking points for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence to rally support for a bill to make 18 the minimum marriage age;
- Reached out to key stakeholders and survivors across California to build support for a bill to make 18 the minimum age of marriage, ahead of an April hearing;
- Advised and informed fellow members of an expert working group on child, early, and forced marriage in Massachusetts on improving protections for minors in the state;
- Advocated with the Governor’s office and allied agencies in New York for a bill to raise the minimum marriage age to 17 and to ensure a strong judicial approval process to screen for forced marriages;
- Reached out to the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and the bill sponsor to try to strengthen a minimum marriage age reform bill there;
- Participated in a telephonic news conference with the sponsor of a bill in Pennsylvania to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18.
Our work to end child marriage is fast-paced and exciting. We welcome you to read weekly updates on our progress on our Facebook page. In the meantime, let us know if the subject of child marriage hits home for you.