Delaware becomes first state to outlaw underage marriage
© WikiMedia (Jeff Belmonte from Cuiabá, Brazil)

Delaware becomes first state to outlaw underage marriage

Delaware became the first state in the nation to completely ban marriage for anyone under 18 on Wednesday.

Governor John Carney [official website] signed House Bill 337 [materials] into law, which went into effect immediately. The law makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to get married, regardless of parental approval. Under previous law [AP report], anyone could marry with a judge’s approval.

Critics of the bill opine that it will clash with religion traditions that condone child marriages. Supporters contend that the bill is a necessary step in ending human trafficking as children who marry lack standing to apply for a divorce. Additionally, married children are more likely to drop out of school or become victims of abuse and domestic violence.

According to the Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website], child marriage is surprisingly common [HRW report] in the US. While most states have a minimum marrying age of 18, all states allow for exceptions, including parental permission and pregnancy. Between the years 2000 and 2010, more than 167,000 children were married in the US, most of them girls to older men.

Recently, several states, including Florida, New York, Virginia and Texas, have tightened marriage laws, but all still allow for exceptions. Several countries, including the US, around the world have set a target for the year 2030 to end all child marriage under the UN Sustainable Development Goals [program website].