Delaware has made it to the history books after declaring a total ban on child marriages. It becomes the first state to ban underage marriages under any circumstance. Governor John Carney signed the historic bill making it illegal for any minor to get married, even if their parents have consented to the union. The law takes effect immediately. A report by CNN provided much of the information used in this article.

Legal loopholes

Minors could previously get married in Delaware, provided they had consent from their parents and an approval from a judge.

Though the legal age for marital consent is 18 in most American states, there have been loopholes allowing minors to obtain marriage licences. Virginia and Texas last year limited marriage to people who are only 18 or older. A minor could get married if a court of law granted them adult rights. Human Rights Watch said in a statement that some states allowed exceptions such as pregnancy for underage marriages. Twenty-three states have listed circumstances in which minors can get married. Children in some states can get married as early as 12.

It was reported that from 2000 to 2010, 167,000 children got married in 38 states. While there were loopholes that allowed child marriages, anybody under the age of 18 cannot enter into any legal contract, open a credit card, file for divorce, or get accepted into a shelter for domestic violence survivors.

Hence, they could not leave an abusive spouse, Kim Williams said. Kim Williams is a Democrat Representative for the state of Delaware.

End child marriages by 2030

Republican senator Anthony Delcollo said the exceptions in previous laws provided loopholes for what would otherwise be labeled statutory rape and the bill would get rid of that backwardness.

He said marriage should be considered just like other legal contracts where children are considered not mature enough.

The United Nations have set a goal to end child marriages by 2030. The United States is supportive of the initiative. Kim Williams said she hoped the other states will also put a total ban on such. Unchained At Last, a group of US advocates pushing for an end to child marriages, said child marriages were most likely lead to an increase in school dropouts and health issues.

The news of the ban was well-received on social media with users urging the other 49 states to follow suit. Others wondered why it took so long for someone to think of such a bill. Some were surprised that it is 2018 and we are only talking of firsts.