U.S. laws that permit child marriage put girls at risk of being forced or coerced to marry against their will, and jeopardize their chance at safe and healthy futures.
Women who marry young face greater vulnerability to domestic and sexual violence, increased risk of serious illnesses and mental health disorders, increased high school drop-out rates, an increased risk of future poverty, and divorce rates of up to 80%. For teen mothers, getting married and later divorcing can more than double the likelihood of future poverty.
The Tahirih Justice Center is leading a national campaign to change these laws, and we need your help!
A strong House bill in Florida (HB 335) was introduced to end child marriage in the state, but was weakened by an amendment allowing exceptions for pregnant 16- and 17-year-olds. This exception can facilitate cover-ups for rape or statutory rape and does nothing to protect teens from forced or coerced marriages, which are far more likely in case of pregnancy. The exception also leaves girls vulnerable to lifelong harms that happen simply by marrying young.
Current Florida law has failed to protect children from the harms of forced and early marriage. Florida is estimated to have the second highest number of child brides in the country. Over 3,000 children were married just between 2010 and 2016, including many victims of statutory rape married to their perpetrators under Florida’s existing pregnancy exception. Criminal laws are ignored, and predators are given a free pass, when “marriages” like these are state-sanctioned. Underage girls can also be easily trapped in violent homes because they face serious challenges with access to shelters, renting apartments, or taking legal action on their own.
The Good News: In less than 5 minutes, you can help change the law, make history in America, and protect girls from devastating, lifelong harm!
The Bad News: Time is short – if the House passes HB 335 in its current state, Florida girls will remain at terrible risk and there will be no real change from the status quo.
To take action:
1) Go to this link to find contact info for your House representative, and call their office. Please be respectful, and assume you will speak with a staffer.
2) Use the following script:
“My name is ____ and I live in [city], Florida. I’m calling to urge the Representative to amend HB 335 to strike exceptions for pregnant 16- and 17-year-olds, and pass instead a clean ban on all marriages under the age of 18. Child marriages can be easily forced or cover-ups for rape, and marrying young carries high risks of lifelong harm to vulnerable girls. Thank you for sharing with the Representative my support for a clean ban on all child marriages, without exceptions.”
Thank you! Together we can make history in Florida and preserve girls’ safe and healthy futures.