I would have thought that child marriage was illegal in the US, but apparently not. Based on a survey, it was estimated that between 2000 and 2010, about 248,000 children, some as young as 12, were married in the US, 77% of them young girls married to adult men. The highest rate of child marriage was in the state of Idaho and a bill to stop it was recently defeated in the Republican-controlled state legislature.
Under current Idaho law, 16- and 17-year-olds just need parental consent to marry. A child under age 16 can marry if a judge consents also.
A bi-partisan bill led by Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, proposed setting the minimum age to marry at 16. Under the proposed law, for a 16- or 17-year-old to get married, consent of the child, parents and the court would be required.
From 2000 to 2010, 4,080 children in Idaho were married, according to data compiled from 38 states by Unchained at Last, a national advocacy group working to end forced and child marriages in America. The youngest minor wed in Idaho was 13.
In many states the legal age to marry is 18. Wintrow called her bill a compromise. “Instead of ending child marriage outright, this is a modest approach to bring it in conformity with our statutory rape laws.”
“When it is legal for a 30-year-old to marry a 15-year-old that is not marriage because they are not equal partners. That is institutionalized child abuse. That is arranged rape,” Nash said.
As far as I can tell from a reading of the Idaho law, the child’s consent does not seem to be necessary, though it is doubtful whether even if it is asked for, the consent of a child could be considered fully informed.
Supporters of child marriage argue that parental consent is sufficient.
“I do not think courts should be involved in marriage at all,” said Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls. “I don’t believe there should be a license required to get married. I think two willing people should be able to go and get married.”
Rep. Julianne Young, R-Blackfoot, said: “This is a decision I think should belong with families. I believe parental consent, which is what is in the law right now, should be sufficient.
One suspects that the institution of child marriage is at least partially being used as a vehicle for older men to have sex with young girls without risking the charge of statutory rape.