New York becomes just the 6th U.S. state to ban child marriage

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking at a press conference.Reuters

New York has become just the 6th state in the U.S. to ban child marriage. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation on Thursday raising the age of consent for marriage to 18 in New York State.

Cuomo released a statement following the development: "This administration fought hard to successfully end child marriage in New York and I'm proud to sign this legislation to strengthen our laws and further protect vulnerable children from exploitation."

He added, "Children should be allowed to live their childhood and I thank the many legislators and advocates who worked diligently to advance this measure and further prevent forced marriages in this state."

The new legislation builds upon a move in 2017 when New York State legislated to raise the age to marry from just 14 to 18. However, at that time, the law still allowed anyone aged more than 16 to marry if parental or judicial consent was given.

The new law will come into affect in the state next month, and makes New York just the 6th state to end all marriages earlier than 18 years of age without exception.

Unchained At Last, an advocacy group fighting to end arranged, forced or child marriages, has celebrated the latest development. Its executive director, Fraidy Reiss, has said in a statement released by the group: "We have been pushing to end child marriage in New York since 2015. Along with our allies in the New York Coalition to End Child Marriage, we met with or called every state legislator multiple times.

"We submitted memos of support. We Chained-In in Manhattan and Albany to demand an end to child marriage."

The group added that this was "a good day for girls in New York."

"Now let's do the same for girls in another 44 states. #18NoExceptions."

In the United States between 2000 to 2018, there were nearly 300,000 children who were legally married while under the age of 18, according to the advocacy group. A majority of those were aged 16 or 17, but there were cases where children as young as 10 were married.
Just a month ago, Rhode Island also signed a bill banning marriages before the age of 18. Of the 50 states in the U.S. only Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and now New York have such a blanket ban in place.