The New York State Assembly on Thursday passed a bill that outlaws child marriage in the state of New York. This legislation prohibits marriage of minors under 17 years of age. It permits young adults between the ages of 17 and 18 to marry if they have permission from their parents and the court.

Child Marriage in New York: statistics and effects

The New York State Health Department reported that between the years 2000 and 2010, 3,853 minor children were married in New York, some as young as 14 and 15. Gender division analysis showed that mostly it was adult men marrying minor girls.

Underaged girls marrying adults in a developed nation like America raises human rights concerns and is a disturbing news. The National Organization for Women have reported that underage girls who get married have suffered 3 times more domestic violence when compared to women who marry at 21.

Child marriage often results in school dropouts, sexual and domestic abuse, poor mental health and deteriorating physical health due to economical instability and financial burden. Among other problematic aspects of child marriage is the lockdown period of marriage. A 14-year-old married girl cannot go to court for divorce until she is 18. For a victim of domestic abuse, it makes it harder to reach out for help as shelters for victims of domestic violence do not accept minors.

Nations around the world are committed to ending child marriage by 2030. The United States is among the countries who have funded developing countries in the fight to end child marriage. Yet, according to a Pew Research Centre report, child marriage is legal in at least 36 states in the United States. In 34 of those states, minors who are 16 or 17 years of age can marry underage with parental and judicial permission.

Massachusetts allows 12-year-old girls to marry, while in New Hampshire a 13-year-old girl can get married as long as she seeks permission from her parents and the judiciary.

New York State Assembly unanimously approves the bill

Governor Andrew Cuomo will soon sign the bill that was unanimously voted on by both the Democrats and the Republicans to abolish child marriage in the state.

Governor Cuomo called the issue a priority, calling child marriage a "scourge on our New York values."

Assembly bill sponsor Amy Paulin called the current law as a "discrimination against young women."

"This law will dramatically change the lives of girls in New York for the better. The current New York law is, at best, antiquated. It reflects a time when everyone married younger. Times have changed. Child marriage is coerced marriage. It condemns young women to a life they did not choose,” said Amy Paulin in an interview before the vote.

This is not the first time the bill was introduced to the senate. When the bill was previously passed by both houses, it got stalled because some religious communities showed opposition, as it did not “comport with the sensibilities” or “religious customs” of some state residents, said Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey.

Among the various modifications to this law is a mandate that will allow even a 17-year-old who married to seek divorce if needed. Also, the judges will be provided guidelines that will assist them in deciding whether or not the marital decision is marked by consent or if it was coerced.