Democratic Assemblywoman Amy Paulin introduced a bill to raise the minimum age of marriage in New York from 14 to 17 years of age this week, as child advocates condemned the current law for allowing adults to sexually abuse children.
“I can’t even begin to imagine the physical, psychological and emotional traumas these children have suffered,” said Paulin. “We must safeguard the health, safety and welfare of our children, who are the future of our society.”
Of the 3,853 minors who married in New York between 2000 and 2010, 84 percent were minor girls who married adult men — according to health department data. Fraidy Reiss, founder and executive director of Unchained at Last, a nonprofit to end forced marriage, said that pressures such as religion, tradition, and economic status continue to drive child marriage in the Empire State.
“The impacts of child marriage on a girl’s life are devastating and long-lasting, undermining her health, education and economic opportunities and increasing her risk of experiencing violence,” said Reiss.
Safia Mahjebia, 20, said that she was 16 when a close friend of hers was forced into a marriage with a 25-year-old man. Such practices were not unusual within the Brooklyn Bangladeshi community in which Mahjebia was raised, she explained.
“Our immediate response was unanimous fear. Fear for her safety, fear for her future, and fear in the air to know you could be next,” Mahjebia recalled. If her own parents had realized that such marriages were legal, she added, she likely would have been married off herself.
On Tuesday, advocates from Unchained At Last and Human Rights Watch dressed in white gowns and chained their wrists outside the New York State Assembly. “Save the girls,” they sang. “Be the change. Help us to break the chains.”
Watch video from the Unchained At Last protest below.
Read the full story at The Associated Press.