Today, Governor Charlie Baker signed a law that raises the legal age for marriage to 18 with no exceptions, ultimately ending child marriage in Massachusetts. This is a huge win for survivors and advocates that have been arduously working to ban laws that allow child marriage in the United States. The state of Massachusetts will now protect children from being forced or coerced into a legally binding contract that strips away any protection and rights they have as single minors. According to state records, 1,246 children as young as 14 were married in Massachusetts between 2000 and 2018 and 89.9 percent of them were girls wed to adult men. In 2020 alone, 14 petitions were filed for the marriage of minors to adults in the Commonwealth.
“This is a huge win for children in Massachusetts, which is now the 7th state to end child marriage by setting a minimum age of 18, no exceptions,” said Alex Goyette, Senior Public Policy Associate at the Tahirih Justice Center. “With this law Massachusetts has gone from one of the least protective states in the country, setting no minimum marriage age by statute, to a true leader in the movement to end child marriage. This progress is a testament to the years of hard work done by advocates, legislators, and most importantly survivors, and sends a message to every other state that now is the time to end child marriage.”
We are grateful to state Rep. Kay Khan and state Sen. Harriette Chandler for championing the bill since it was initially introduced back in 2017. We also applaud the relentless advocacy efforts from survivors and supporting organizations that fought alongside Tahirih since day 1.
We hope that Massachusetts will encourage the other 43 states that currently allow child marriage to follow suit and move swiftly to ban these laws that place children in dangerous situations.
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The Tahirih Justice Center is a national, nonprofit organization that serves immigrant survivors of gender-based violence. By amplifying the experiences of survivors in communities, courts, and Congress, Tahirih’s mission is to create a world in which all people share equal rights and live in safety and with dignity.