Rhode Island governor signs bill banning child marriage

Rhode Island governor signs bill banning child marriage
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Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee (D) signed legislation on Monday banning child marriage in his state in an effort to “protect children and prevent exploitation.”

The bill will eliminate language in Rhode Island law that allowed teens under the age of 18 to obtain marriage licenses under certain circumstances, The Associated Press reportedPreviously, state law had allowed 16-year-olds to marry with permission from a parent or guardian. Children younger than 16 were also able to marry if the family court was notified and a court hearing was conducted.

State Rep. Julie Casimiro (D), who supported the bill, said child marriage can be used to hide abuse, unwanted pregnancies and human trafficking.

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“Child marriages destroy girls’ health, education and economic opportunities and increases their risk of violence,” Casimiro said, according to the AP.

As The Providence Journal reported, this ban was inspired by New Jersey-based advocacy group Unchained At Last and stories of forced marriages shared with Rhode Island lawmakers.

"My father introduced me to my husband-to-be one morning, and I was told I would marry him that night. That man was thirteen years my senior, 28 years old. ... I was taken out of the country, raped daily and impregnated almost immediately," Sara Tasneem of California told Rhode Island lawmakers, the Journal reported.

In its testimony, Unchained At Last shared statistics with lawmakers that showed “32 children as young as 14 were married in Rhode Island between 2013 and 2019; 88% were girls wed to adult men; Two of those children were married at an age/spousal age difference that met the definition of a sex crime.”

“The state sent those children home to be raped,” the group added.