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The Tahirih Justice Center – national experts on forced and child marriage in the United States – submitted written testimony to the Connecticut General Assembly in support of HB 5442, a bill to eliminate exceptions to age 18 as the minimum legal age to marry. Today, the Connecticut General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Judiciary is holding a public hearing on HB 5442, which is sponsored by Representatives Michelle Cook and Josh Elliott.

Tahirih’s written testimony explains how the current law in Connecticut leaves several loopholes that can facilitate the abuse and exploitation of minors. In Connecticut, there is no statutory age “floor” below which a child cannot be married so long as a judge, who lacks specialized training and is given no guidance under the statute, approves. Depending on ages and age differences of the parties, some judge-approved marriages can amount to judge-sanctioned statutory rape. Additionally, judicial approval is only required for parties under age 16, meaning that 16 and 17-year-olds can be married simply by having one parent sign off on the marriage. The new minimum marriage age bill would remove these loopholes.

“HB 5442 would enact critical reforms to the legal marriage age, and by limiting the right to marry to adults age 18 or older, would offer powerful protection to vulnerable children,” said Jeanne Smoot, Tahirih’s Senior Counsel for Policy and Strategy.

Tahirih is proud to be a driving force behind the movement to end child marriage in Connecticut and across the nation. We are currently collaborating with key stakeholders and survivor-advocates to introduce and pass bills to address child marriage in twelve states, including Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Texas.

Tahirih has led the movement to end forced marriage in the United States since our groundbreaking 2011 national survey, which identified thousands of cases of forced marriage, many involving girls under age 18. Campaign milestones have included launching a petition that garnered over 130,000 signatures and was presented to the White House and a six month, six city national awareness raising tour. Last year, Tahirih drafted and spearheaded the bipartisan passage of a new law that made Virginia the first state in the country to limit marriage to legal adults.

Tahirih’s expert legal analysis has been the backbone of this movement, including our recently released compilation of all 50 states’ laws on minimum marriage age and exceptions. More information on child marriage in the U.S. and its harms is available in our child marriage backgrounder and further analyses of the shortcomings of state marriage laws are forthcoming.

Tahirih’s Senior Counsel for Policy and Strategy, Jeanne Smoot, is available for comment on this topic. Please contact [email protected] to arrange an interview.