A bill raising the minimum age for marriage from 14 to 17 in New York has been signed into law by Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo.

Human Rights Watch campaigned vigorously for the move,  resulting in a law being passed in New York State today, which bans all marriage of children under the age of 17, and allows 17 year olds to marry only with permission from a judge.

Website Unchained At Last offers the following stats on child marriage in the state:

“3,853 children were married in New York between 2000 and 2010, many with significant age differences. In 2011 alone, a 14-year-old married a 26-year-old in New York, and a 15-year-old married someone age “35 to 39.” A 15-year-old was wed to a 28-year-old. Another 15-year-old was wed to a 25-year-old. All those marriages required approval from New York judges.”

Whilst there is some debate over whether laws raising the age of consent for marriage will protect all vulnerable children being forced into unions against their will, largely because a significant portion of child marriages around the world happen informally and go undetected as a result, the new law will act as a deterrent and provide much needed protection against adults seeking to marry vulnerable minors, often in order to traffick them.

The legislation is a wonderful start to tackling child marriage in the state. The next step for New York will be to reach out to those communities still sanctioning child marriage and engage with them, so that a dialogue around the practice can begin and new ways of nurturing children within those communities are developed.

Human Rights Watch has published an excellent summary on the day’s events, which you can read here. Many congratulations to HRW and other organisations who fought tirelessly for this new law.

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