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First Gov. Chris Christie – in an act of ignorance or malice – conditionally vetoed A3091, the bill we at Unchained helped to write to end child marriage in New Jersey. The bill that passed overwhelmingly in both houses of the legislature. The bill that would have made New Jersey the first state to eliminate a human-rights abuse that primarily affects girls.

And then Asm. Jon Bramnick introduced a bill to accept Christie’s outrageous conditional veto.

 

This calls for a protest.

We urge you to Chain-In with us outside Bramnick’s office in Westfield on Wednesday, June 14. We’ll wear bridal gowns and veils (which we’ll provide!). We’ll chain our arms and tape our mouths. We’ll urge Bramnick to withdraw his bill.

Together, we’ll send a powerful message to Bramnick and other legislators: Stand up to the governor. #OverrideChristie. End child marriage in New Jersey.

The survivors, activists and allies who address the crowd at the the Chain-In will include:

  • Fraidy Reiss, Unchained At Last
  • Naila Amin, Naila Amin Foundation
  • Deb Huber, National Organization for Women-NJ
  • Katie Foley, Westfield High School student and activist
  • Rev. Chani Getter, interfaith minister
  • Sophie Tannebaum, Student at Edison Intermediate School in Westfield
  • Mandy Zucker, Co-Chair of the Social Action Committee of Temple Emanu-El
  • Sophie Hurwitz, Westfield High School student and activist

Saxophonist Chris Lijoi will lead protesters in a rendition of “We Are Girls, Not Brides,” a haunting song written by girls in Zambia. Click on the image below to watch the girls in Zambia perform “We Are Girls, Not Brides.” (Girls Not Brides has granted permission for use of the song.)

SHOCKING VETO

Under current law in New Jersey, children age 16 or 17 can marry with parental “consent” (which often is “coercion”). Children 15 and younger – with no minimum age – can marry with judicial approval (and the law does not specify any criteria that a judge must consider).

Some 3,600 children as young as 13 were married in New Jersey between 1995 and 2014 – almost all girls wed to adult men. More than 105 of them were married, with judicial approval, to older spouses with an age difference that constitutes statutory rape. Yet Christie insisted with his conditional veto that this same failed judicial-review process now be used for children at precisely the ages, 16 and 17, when they face the greatest risk of forced marriage.

Further, Christie’s conditional veto did not even try to address the two main reasons we must end child marriage. First, children can easily be forced into marriage or forced to stay in a marriage before they turn 18 and become legal adults. They face overwhelming legal and practical barriers if they try to leave home, access a shelter, retain an attorney or bring a legal action.

Second, the lifelong impacts of marriage before 18 on girls’ health, education and economic opportunities and overall quality of life are devastating enough that the U.S. State Department considers marriage before 18 a “human rights abuse.”

Bramnick, in his bill to accept Christie’s unacceptable conditional veto, added a line about allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to marry if they would suffer “substantial harm” by not marrying. This language is offensive to children. How can a child suffer “substantial harm” by NOT being subjected to a human-rights abuse? Is Bramnick providing cover for the parents and judges who have been caught forcing pregnant girls to marry their own rapist?

We urge Bramnick: Do not cave to a governor who has shown deplorable lack of concern about children. Stand up to the governor. Override his veto.

HUMAN-RIGHTS ABUSES

Child marriage – or marriage before age 18 – 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 or trapped within a marriage, because they cannot easily access legal and other resources.

Yet marriage before 18 is legal in all 50 US states, and many thousands of children were married in the U.S. in the last decade. In New Jersey alone, some 2,000 children as young as 13 were married between 2000 and 2014 – mostly girls wed to adult men. And forced marriage happens to adults too, but the US has long lagged behind other countries in acknowledging and responding to this human rights abuse.

The solution? Unchained started and now leads a growing national movement to end child marriage in the US, state by state, by writing, introducing and passing legislation to eliminate marriage before age 18.

Join the movement. Chain-In with us to grab the attention of policymakers and the public, and help end child marriage in America.

Read more here about Unchained’s past Chain-Ins.

CHAIN-IN FAQs

Q: I don’t have a bridal gown and veil. What should I do?

A: No problem. Wear a white top, and indicate when you register that you want Unchained to loan you a free veil and a free gown you can wear over your own clothing or instead of it. (You are encouraged to wear a gown and veil regardless of your gender identity.)

Q: I prefer not to wear bridal clothing and/or not to chain my arms or tape my mouth. May I still join the Chain-In?

A: Absolutely!

Q: Should I bring my own chains and tape?

A: No, do not bring your own chains and tape. Unchained will provide free plastic chains and comfortable tape.

Q: Is this legal?

A: Yes, the Chain-In is completely legitimate. Unchained has the backing of the First Amendment and permission from the Westfield Police Department.

Q: How much does it cost to join the Chain-In?

A: Joining the Chain-In is free – but please consider donating to Unchained to help offset the cost of the Chain-In and to help women and girls across the U.S. who are fleeing forced marriages.

Q: Where is the exact Chain-In location?

A: The Chain-In will be held in front of Bramnick’s office at 251 North Avenue W in Westfield, which is adjacent to the train station.

Q: What time does the Chain-In begin and end?

A: Please arrive at  6:30 p.m. to sign in and get into Chain-In attire. The actual Chain-In will begin 7 p.m. and end around 8 p.m.

Q: Will the Chain-In proceed in case of bad weather?

A: The protest will proceed unless officials declare a state of emergency.

Q: How else can I help end child and forced marriage?

A: Whether or not you can join the Chain-In, please take these steps:

  • Spread the word about the Chain-In by emailing your friends and posting about it on social media using the hashtags #ChainIn, #EndChildMarriage, #OverrideChristie and #A3091. Please tag @UnchainedAtLast in your tweets and posts.
  • Urge key lawmakers to pass legislation to end child marriage. It’s easy to do: Just submit these pre-filled emails.
  • Support Unchained financially. Even a small donation makes a huge difference to a woman or a girl fleeing a forced marriage.
  • Stay updated on, and help spread, news about forced marriage in the U.S. Join the Unchained mailing list, “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.