End Child Marriage in the United States

At the Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley’s Empower Hour on February 5th, 2022, Sara Tasneem, MPA presented “Advocacy Efforts to End Child Marriage in the United States”

Sara, a survivor of a forced child marriage, advocates against Child/Forced Marriage and violence against women and girls. Featured in Knots, A Forced Marriage Story, she volunteers as a mentor with young women who need support before, during, or after experiencing forced child marriage.

Her mission is to create a network for survivors, other advocates, and non-profit organizations who can connect victims with services. Her goal is to raise public awareness about forced child marriage in the U.S., to develop partnerships for survivors, advocates, and non-profit groups, and to create change through, legislation, and support.

Sara shared her emotional story. She was born in Colorado. At the age of 15 she was a typical teenage, her dream was to be an Air Force pilot. When she visiting her Dad at age 15, her father forced her to marry a man who was a complete stranger and almost twice her age. It took her seven years to leave this abusive marriage behind. She along with other survivors who know all too well about the human rights abuse that is FORCED CHILD MARRIAGE.

Child marriage is a marriage in which at least one party is under 18 years of age. As of January 2022, in nine states there is no legal minimum age, including California. As of July 2021, six states and two territories have banned underage marriages. Between 2000 and 2018, nearly 300,000 minors were legally married in the United States.

What about other states?

  • Arizona establishes age 16 as the minimum age for marriage, but only if one of two conditions apply: the minor has been legally emancipated, or a parent consents to the marriage. In either case, the prospective spouse can be no more than three years older than the minor.
  • Child marriage is still legal in California. It requires the consent of just one parent through a court order. Many of these marriages are between young girls and men significantly older than them, making way for gender-based violence within the marriage. Sara encouraged everyone to sign the CA Petition: http://chng.it/CmVRqZTX. Currently, they need approximately 7500 more names for the next step. Please support this petition.
  • Hawaii heard a proposed bill that if one of the respective parties at the time of the marriage is a minor and the other party is more than five years older than the minor, the child protective services unit shall investigate and report to the family court before the marriage is approved.
  • Utah requires everyone to be at least 16 years old to be married. If you are under 18, you need the consent of a parent or guardian, which must be given in-person to the county clerk before a marriage license will be issued.

This round table discussion was hosted by the Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley’s Advocacy Committee. The “Zonta Empowers: Take Action” series has been offered several times a year and highlighted subjects like Human Trafficking and PTSD.  Zonta will continue to have future discussions that feature topics like intimate stalking, domestic violence, and many others that will help our community understand issues that can be difficult to discuss. Zonta is pleased to collaborate with many organizations locally that share our mission.