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Sat Jul 9, 2016, 05:27 AM


Child marriage is finally illegal in Virginia — and other states may be on their way

Mary Elizabeth Williams in Salon, Friday, Jul 8, 2016 04:32 PM EST

Bad news if you’d like to marry a child in the state of Virginia — as of this month, children under the age of 16 can no longer get hitched.

In case you thought that child marriage was a relic of bygone eras or an abusive practice that happens in other places, before July 1, 16- and 17-year-olds could marry with parental consent — and children even younger could wed with parental consent if the girl was pregnant. Relatedly, Virginia is one of the 37 states the mandate that its sex education curriculum include abstinence education. And according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, nearly 5,000 Virginia teenagers became new moms in 2014.

In a conversation with William & Mary News this week, Vivian Hamilton, a professor at the school who worked on raising the state’s marriage age, explained that “The new law does away with the most troubling, youngest marriages. By putting procedural safeguards in the way of 16- and 17-year-olds seeking to marry, we hope it will drastically reduce the occurrence of minors being coerced to marry.”

And to prove that that’s something that badly needed to happen, Hamilton went on to state that “In Virginia alone, almost 4,500 minors under age 18 were married between 2004 and 2013. Some 90 percent of minor spouses in Virginia were girls, and many of them married men significantly older than they were — sometimes decades older…. {The previous law} allowed abusers who could otherwise be prosecuted for statutory rape to evade prosecution by marrying their victims.”



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