The image of a blushing bride walking down the aisle towards her future husband is a mainstay genre of the film industry, evoking a palpable emotional response, in both men and women in search of the fairytale. But the wife-to-be in this story, ensconced in traditional wedding garb, is 10 years old, being given in marriage to a 35-year-old man.
Egads! Those third world countries are archaic in social growth. Right?
Maybe, but this child bride and her marriage took place legally in Tennessee.
America. And this case is not an anomaly.
How Can This be our America?
While headlines and pundits across the nation devote seemingly unlimited hours to the plight of illegal immigrant children, where is the outrage for our own? Is child marriage not a liberal subject for the likes of Rachel Maddow to shed a tear or choke back a sob at this revolting practice?
The information is readily available across media platforms, on Twitter and Facebook, but more importantly, all it takes is a simple internet search and data, an enormous amount of research and statistics, is at one’s fingertips:
“Between 2000 and 2015, at least 207,468 minors were married in the United States. Despite an overall fall in child marriage since 2000 (25,583 to 9,247), there are still a shocking number of young children legally married in the country. Only 14 percent married other minors, meaning 86 percent wedded an adult…The youngest to marry since 2000 were three ten year olds. According to Frontline, the three girls married men aged 24, 25 and 31 in Tennessee in 2001.”
And if you want to take a disturbing deep dive into every possible detail, Frontline has it organized for easy access.
Why? Just why?
Don’t blame religion, democrats, atheists, or conservatives –they each play an equal role in many cases. From parent perpetrators to local and state laws allowing the practice, and the indifference and ignorance of elected officials to enact child protection laws.
There is only one state in our nation, New Jersey, that has passed a minimum age to wed law, setting 18 as the magic number — despite any reasons for the marriage. Every other state in the Union has an unmanageable amount of legal wiggle room:
“In at least 36 states, for example, minors can marry with judicial consent. And in 34 states, 16- and 17-year-olds can marry with their parents’ permission. Two states, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, allow 12- and 13-year-old girls respectively and 14-year-old boys to marry with parental and judicial permission.”
But then there are over 1,000 children under the age of 14 that have been either foolishly allowed to marry or forced. The testimony of these children shows that abuse comes from all walks of life.
Fraidy Reiss, the director of Unchained at Last, the only nonprofit dedicated to promoting social, policy and legal change to end forced and child marriage in America, has seen and heard the ignorance and indifference as she fights for minimum age in every state across the nation. Her words are ripe with frustration and anger:
“When I began, I thought it would be easy. After all, the US state department considers child marriage a human rights abuse. But everywhere there are politicians who think it’s a bad idea to change the law. You wouldn’t believe how many legislators have told me that if a girl gets pregnant, she’s got to get married. One female Democrat politician asked me: ‘Won’t you increase abortion rates if you end child marriage?’ That left me speechless.”
Where’s my America?
Americans are compassionate and the defenders of freedom around the globe. We don’t tolerate human rights atrocities and will stick our collective noses into anyone’s business that perpetrates this behavior or condones it through apathy. Why not in our own country? We cannot be the world standard if we allow our children to be bartered to avoid scandal, or make a profit, or just out of some misguided parenting skills.
Dear Americans, you ask for compassion for 2,000 illegal immigrant families, yet refuse to help change laws to keep our kids safe. Shame on you.