But even while condemning child marriage overseas, the U.S. has failed to outlaw this practice in its own backyard. In order to lead in the fight against child marriage globally, the U.S. should bring domestic law in line with its commitments abroad. - Rachel Vogelstein, Douglas Dillon Senior Fellow and director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations
The terms child marriages probably conjures up colonial images of lesser developed countries for many who assume this is a long gone phenomenon in the western world. However, nothing could be further from the truth as child and forced marriages in the United States remains a pervasive issue. A 2018 study analyzing marriage license data from 41 states found that over 200,000 minors were married in the United States between 2000 and 2015 or 40 children a day. Despite the persisting issue of child marriage, there has been a consistent failure by the American government to take federal action to confront the problem Congress has failed to ratify the two UN conventions that are the bedrock of international denunciation of child marriage and is one of only 3 countries in the world to fail to ratify this treaty. Aside from this, America does not have any federal law on the books banning child marriage creating an ineffective patchwork of state laws. State child marriage laws are fraught with legal loopholes, and lack of age floors, proof of age requirements, and residency requirements have led to some states outright banning it while others facilitate child marriages. Beyond these legal loopholes there are still avenues to coerce children into unofficial marriages like conjugal cohabitation, marriage by adoption, marriage by contract or simply not registering the marriage until they reach legal age. Sadly these practices continue throughout America and are a recipe for years of trauma.
Like the global consequences of child marriage, the domestic consequences carry with them tremendous intergenerational and societal costs for America. While girls are predominantly impacted by this phenomenon it should be noted that young boys are also forced into these marriages with 87% girls and 13% boys making up these 200,000 coercive relationships. A different study, looking at the mental health of child brides in America, estimated between 8.9% and 11.96% of women are married as minors in the United States. While the general public often assumes that child marriage is issue that doesn’t pertain to America, it is widespread across the country today.The impacts of such arrangements can have alsting impacts as girls who marry before age 19 are 50 percent more likely to drop out of high school than their peers and four times less likely to finish college. From a health perspective, studies show that victims of child marriage in the U.S. are acutely vulnerable to higher rates of psychiatric disorders as well as physical, emotional, or verbal abuse.
This timely symposium provides an invaluable opportunity for case managers, social workers, community outreach specialists, healthcare and mental health practitioners, and other key stakeholders to reflect on progress made, identify challenges and consider next steps in addressing child marriages and forced marriages. Cross-sector exchange will help facilitate better partnerships between civil society, the private sector and government actors. It will allow delegates to consider solutions to identified barriers and challenges related to policy implementation. Participants will be able to transfer key learnings and best practices to their own communities whether at the local, state or national level.
Share strategies to improve state by state collaboration and federal response
Learn how to prevent child marriages across different sectors
Discuss how to empower children and give them agency
Debate the best means of closing loopholes that allow child marriages to continue
Identify trauma-informed methods of helping minors who have been forced into marriage
Explore how to talk to young people about healthy relationships
Address what should be done after a minor has been forced into a marriage
|9:30||Chair's Welcome and Introduction|
Speaker Presentations and Q&A
|Open Floor Discussion and Debate|
|13:00||Chair's Summary and Closing Comments|
|13:10||Close **All Times as Presented are in the Pacific Time Zone**
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