National Organization of Women – New York Rallies to End Child Marriage in the State, Calling On Lawmakers to Act With Urgency

Press Releases / March 23, 2017

Members of Governor Cuomo’s Administration, Survivors and Advocates Demand End to Human Rights Abuse in New York

March 22, 2017 – ALBANY, NY – The National Organization for Women-New York (NOW-NY) organized a rally and lobby day to champion Governor Cuomo’s efforts to end child marriage in New York. NOW-NY was joined by RoAnn Destito, New York State Office of General Services Commissioner, members of Governor Cuomo’s administration, Unchained At Last and Sanctuary for Families at a press conference in Albany today.

“Governor Cuomo is applying a human rights lens to marriage laws in New York,” said NOW-NY President Sonia Ossorio. “First by ensuring the rights of same sex couples to marry and now by closing the loopholes that allow for child marriage. The harms of child marriage are well-documented, and there is a growing movement in the U.S. and around the world to stop it. We need to act swiftly so that our state law is in step with growing international consensus that child marriage is a form of child abuse.”

Ossorio also spoke with the Governor this morning who restated his commitment to bringing an end to child marriage in New York.

“For too long, this archaic law has prevented our young people from reaching their full potential, and with this legislation we are finally putting an end to child marriage and providing the protections to minors that they deserve,” Governor Cuomo said. “This is a major step forward in our efforts to protect children, prevent forced marriages, and create a safer and more just New York for all.”

Under current law, children as young as 14 are allowed to marry with judicial and parental consent.

“It’s about time we end child marriage, a human rights abuse with devastating, lifelong impacts on girls’ lives. Child marriage undermines girls’ health, education and economic opportunities and increases their risk of experiencing violence,” said Unchained At Last Executive Director Fraidy Reiss.

“Childhood is not the time for marriage. Girls who are married under the age of 18 are much less likely to complete their education and women who were married as children are three times more likely to suffer domestic violence than those who were married as adults. We are grateful to our legislators for their efforts to raise the age of consent and ensure that in New York State, this abusive, outmoded and inappropriate practice becomes a relic of the past,” said Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, Executive Director of Sanctuary for Families, a leading advocate and provider of services for domestic violence and human trafficking survivors.

According to New York State Health Department data, 3,853 minors were married in New York State between 2000 and 2010. A vast majority—85 percent—of the children who were married in the state between 1997 and 2010 were minor girls wed to adults. Statistics demonstrate that girls who marry before the age of 18 face higher rates of domestic violence, have a higher incidence of mental and physical health problems, and are less likely to complete their education. Pregnant teen moms who marry are more likely to end up living in poverty than those who don’t marry.

Ossorio said, “At a time when the fundamental rights of women are under attack by the Trump administration—from dismantling healthcare to defunding the programs that serve women in crisis—this legislation to save girls from forced marriage is needed more than ever.”

NOW New York advocates for the women and girls of New York, by working to defend reproductive rights, fight economic inequality, and end discrimination and violence against women. As the largest NOW chapter in the country, they play a key role in shaping both the local and national debate on the issues that impact women.