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This time the exciting news is in Maryland, where Del. Vanessa Atterbeary just introduced a bill that Unchained and its ally, Tahirih Justice Center, helped to write. The bill would end all child marriage in Maryland, without exceptions.

In New Jersey, a similar bill Unchained helped to write is scheduled for a hearing Monday afternoon before the senate judiciary committee. Unchained will testify strongly in support, of course.

In Massachusetts, a similar bill Unchained and Tahirih helped to write was introduced two weeks ago.

If you live in one of those states, email your legislators and your governor here to urge them to pass the pending bills. Regardless of where you live, see below for ways you can join the growing national movement Unchained started, and now leads, to end child marriage in America.

Human-Rights Abuse

Child marriage is a human-rights abuse that undermines girls’ health, education and economic opportunities and increases their risk of experiencing violence. Often, too, child marriage is forced marriage: Children can easily be forced into marriage or forced to stay in a marriage, because they face overwhelming legal and practical barriers if they try to leave home, access a shelter, retain an attorney or bring a legal action.

Yet, while most states set 18 as the minimum marriage age, exceptions in every state allow those under 18 to marry. In Maryland, children age 16 or 17 can marry if they have parental consent or if “the woman” is pregnant or has given birth, and children age 15 can marry if they have parental consent and “the woman” is pregnant or has given birth. However, Maryland has no process to ensure parental “consent” is not actually parental “coercion,” nor any process to ensure no statutory rape has occurred.

Shockingly, some 3,130 children were married in Maryland between 2000 and 2014 – mostly girls wed to adult men. Further, Maryland’s data shows more than five children “under 15” were married in that time period, without specifying just how young they were or how that could have happened, when marriage before 15 is illegal.

The Solution

Unchained is working state by state to write, introduce and pass laws to eliminate all marriage before 18, with no exceptions. In Maryland, Del. Atterbeary introduced a bill to that effect last year, but the bill did not get enough support, and it died. Now Del. Atterbeary has reintroduced the bill as HB799.

You Can Help

Wherever you live, you can help end child marriage in America:

  • If you live in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey or New York, email your legislators to urge them to pass pending or soon-to-be-introduced legislation to end child marriage.
  • Join an upcoming Chain-In to protest forced and child marriage. The next Chain-In is scheduled for February 14 in Albany.
  • Support Unchained financially. Even a small donation makes a huge difference to a woman or a girl fleeing a forced marriage.
  • Stay updated on news about forced marriage in the U.S. “Like” Unchained on Facebook and follow Unchained on Twitter.
  • Volunteer your time to help a woman or a girl who is facing a forced marriage. Unchained relies on the kindness of pro bono attorneys, psychotherapists and others.