If you thought child marriage was a problem plaguing only developing nations, it might be time for a rethink.
In Virginia in the United States, children as young as 12 or 13 can get married under the state's laws.
However, efforts are being made by lawmakers to raise the minimum age for marriage to 16 years. The Virginia General Assembly recently voted in favour of a legislation seeking to raise the minimum age for marriage to 16 years.
The bill will be sent to the Governor for approval.
âA child whoâs 13 and pregnant â itâs rarely the case that the 13-year-old is marrying a 17-year-old. Itâs more often the case that it is a child marrying somebody decades older than they are,â Virginia Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Fauquier who introduced the legislation, told Washington's Top News.
The Independent reported that "In the state of Virginia, it is officially still legal for girls as young as 12 or 13 to be brought to a courthouse with evidence of a pregnancy and wed."
Vogel further said, âSomeone, instead, should be asking the question, âWell if this 13-year-old is pregnant, isnât that evidence of statutory rape?â Is that not a crime?â
According to Vox, thousands of teenagers have got married in Virginia since 2004, including over 200 persons who were 15 years of age or younger. Nearly all the married children were girls.
Virginia is however not the only state which has been allowing such marriages.
An Associated Press report states, "Across the country, states laws generally set 18 as the minimum age for marriage, yet every state allows some exceptions. Most states let 16- and 17-year-olds marry if they have parental consent, and several states, including Maryland, New York and Virginia, allow children under 16 to marry if a court official approves."
Similar steps are also being taken in Maryland and New York to raise the minimum age for marriage.
âWe think weâre so sophisticated, so progressive and ahead of the times, and yet we still see this barbaric behavior,â Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, the sponsor of the bill in New York, told NYT.