By SHERRI RUGGIERI
In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law a prohibition against anyone under the age of 18 from marrying or entering into a civil union regardless of parental or judicial consent.
“In New Jersey, we are dedicated to protecting children by putting an end to child marriages by raising the minimum age to 18,” declared Governor Murphy. “Studies have consistently showed that minors who enter into marriage – particularly young women – are less likely to graduate from high school and college and more likely to suffer domestic abuse and live in poverty. I am proud to join with the Legislature to make New Jersey a national leader on this important human rights issue.”
According to the New Jersey Department of Health data, more than 3,600 minors were married in New Jersey from 1995-2015. “Most people would probably be surprised at how many underage marriages occur, not just in the United States, but right here in New Jersey, some even as young as 13 or 14,” said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (Mercer/Hunterdon). “In most cases these are forced marriages and in the vast majority they involve young girls. At its most basic sense, marriage is a legal contract that should be reserved for two consenting adults, plain and simple.” Additionally, New Jersey data indicates that girls comprise 90 percent of those under 18 who were married.
“There have been many reports detailing the dangers of child marriage and how it undermines a girl’s health, often exposes them to violence, and hinders their educational and economic opportunities,” said Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (Camden/Burlington). “We can’t control the rest of the world, but we can put a stop to it here.”
“Some might think forced marriages are something that only occurs elsewhere, not in the United States, but it’s a lot more common than we think, even right here in New Jersey,” said Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (Hudson). “This is about preserving basic human rights and ensuring that young women, in particular, are not forced into marriage against their will.”
New Jersey might be the first to pass this type of law, but Maryland, New York, and Virginia have pending legislation.
Sherri Ruggieri is the managing editor of Empire State News. A practicing attorney for over 20 years, Ms. Ruggieri is also chairperson of Edison Township’s Planning Board. Additionally, she has served as a college professor, with nearly a decade of experience in teaching law and political science courses.
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