NOW New York Pushes to End Child Marriage in New York State

Press Releases / February 15, 2017

Girls As Young As 14 Are Still Able to Marry Under Current Law

February 14, 2017 – New York – NOW New York President Sonia Ossorio spoke at a press conference in the state capitol earlier today, calling for legislators to get behind A.5524 (sponsored by Assemblymember Amy Paulin), a bill which would prohibit marriage before the age of 17 and put protections in place to prevent forced or coerced marriages for minors.

NOW New York President Sonia Ossorio said, “It is unbelievable to most people that girls as young as 14 are able to get married to adult men right here in our own state. 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. Research shows that girls who marry under the age of 18 are at far higher risk of domestic violence, health problems, and poverty. Our legislators need to act immediately to put an end to this extremely damaging practice now.”

Ossorio added, “In the era of Trump when our civil liberties and freedom of the press are in danger, this bill to save girls from forced marriage is unambiguous and straightforward. New York legislators should end this human rights abuse and close these loopholes immediately.”

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. Globally, there is momentum to push for an end to child, early, and forced marriage because of its known harms, particularly for girls. In March of last year the U.S. State Department made early and forced marriage one of its three key priorities in the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls, calling it a “human rights abuse.”

There is strong evidence that marriage under the age of 18 precipitates long-term negative outcomes, particularly for girls’ educational attainment, economic status, and freedom from violence.

Sonia Ossorio said, “It’s time for New York to take a strong stand now. Closing the loopholes in our state laws will prevent coerced or forced marriage, reduce violence against girls, and align current law with the current body of knowledge about child marriage. By prohibiting marriage for those under the age of 17 and putting further protections in place, we are acting to ensure the most positive educational, social, and economic prospects and equal opportunities for our girls and boys.”

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.