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Did you know 4,500 children were married in Virginia from 2004 to 2013?

90% were girls.

90% of the time, they married adults.

It alarmed us, too! While most U.S. states set 18 as the minimum marriage age, every U.S. state allows exceptions that mean children and teens under age 18 can be married. The consequences are troubling.

With pro bono help from the law firm of Hogan Lovells, Tahirih has consulted with a broad range of stakeholders and allies to write legislation to make 18 the minimum marriage age in Virginia, with an exception only for emancipated minors.

We’re thrilled to share that this bill has just been introduced in the Virginia General Assembly by bipartisan co-patrons Delegate Jennifer McClellan (D) and Senator Jill Vogel (R).

As the Virginia legislature gets underway (the session started Jan. 13), and as Tahirih supports parallel reform efforts in New York and New Jersey and hopes to spark other pushes around the country, we will keep you posted.

Child marriage is a serious global problem that intersects with intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and other forms of abuse and exploitation.

U.S. children are vulnerable to these same harms, but due to their legal status as minors they are disempowered to protect themselves from being forced into marriages against their will.

That’s why as part of our groundbreaking Forced Marriage Initiative, Tahirih is working hard to ensure that 18 is the minimum marriage age in all states. It’s a big and bold undertaking, to move states from “the way it’s always been” to “the way it should be,” but it’s also a commonsense, straightforward proposition to prevent potentially lifelong harm.

We’re also excited to announce a major national research effort that we hope will spur more legislators into action — we are currently retrieving data from all 50 states to document the extent of the child marriage problem in the United States, with help again from Hogan Lovells, and working together with a non-profit partner organization, Unchained At Last. So far, records reveal that thousands of children — as young 10 years old — have been married in recent years in the United States.

We’re poised to make history, but we can’t do it without your help — and somewhere a girl facing round-the-clock abuse in a soon-to-be forced marriage is counting on all of us.

Thank you for all you do to help Tahirih change and save lives!

If you would to learn more about the bill that has been introduced in the Virginia General Assembly, you can find our summary here.