United States: New York Approves New Law Banning Most Child Marriages

New York has enacted a new law banning the marriage of all minors under the age of 17. Minors between the ages of 17 and 18 may marry with parental and judicial consent. Prior New York state law allowed girls between the ages of 14 and 16 to marry with the approval of a judge and their parents, while girls between the ages of 16 and 17 could marry with just their parents’ consent. The new law would also allow 17-year olds to sue for divorce; previously, girls could not divorce their spouses before the age of 18.  

While human rights advocates have praised New York for limiting child marriage in the state, they have expressed disappointment that the state legislature did not ban all marriages of girls under the age of 18, without exception. According to some advocates, “the difference between marrying at 18 or 17 might seem ‘arbitrary,’ but it could mean the difference between life and death for girls.” They point out that child brides under 18 are “three times more likely to be beaten by a spouse than women who marry at 21 or older” and that the risk of forced marriage is greatest for 17-year old girls. However, most domestic violence shelters will not accept girls under the age of 18. Additionally, as reported in the New York Times, “Girls are typically wed to older men . . . [and] are far more likely than those who delay marriage to stop their educations [and] suffer economically.” New York recorded nearly four thousand child marriages between 2000 and 2010. 


Compiled fromGoldberg, Eleanor, New York’s Child Marriage ‘Ban’ Still Doesn’t Protect Girls, The Huffington Post (June 21, 2017); Foderaro, Lisa W.Child Marriage Is Sharply Curtailed by New York Legislature, The New York Times (June 8, 2017); Foderaro, Lisa W., It’s Legal for 14-Year-Olds to Marry. Should It Be?, The New York Times (March 13, 2017).