Virginia Senator Jill Vogel explained how raising the state's minimum age requirement for marriage to 16 is all about the kids.
Currently, a marriage license can be issued to a 12- or 13-year-old who can show evidence of a pregnancy and has the consent of a parent. The problem is that some of these children aren’t entering marriage and parenthood on their own accord, but rather by coercion, Vogel said, WTOP.com reports.
“A child who’s 13 and pregnant — it’s rarely the case that the 13-year-old is marrying a 17-year-old,” Vogel said. “It’s more often the case that it is a child marrying somebody decades older than they are.”
To some, the pregnancy alone would be considered statutory rape or child abuse. “Is that not a crime?” Vogel asked, adding how instead the state’s current laws say “It’s OK, let’s give this person a marriage license.”
While 16 is still quite young for marriage and parenting, the Senate Bill 415 will at least protect younger girls — who are not old enough to drive, go to a women’s shelter, or even go to court for an order of protection against an abusive spouse — from getting married at all.
“In terms of what parameters there are to protect children, it really shocks the conscience, some of the situations children have found themselves in, where there is forced marriage or they are the victims of sex abuse,” Vogel said. “The perpetrators use marriage as a veil to protect themselves from prosecution.”
Furthermore, the Bill will aim to protect the teens between 16 and 18 who can petition the court for a marriage license by a judge confirming the union is consensual and not coerced or a dangerous situation. Additionally, a judge will determine if the minors are mature enough to marry.
Vogel added about the children suffering abuse under the current laws, “They are truly victims in every way.”
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