’Let’s Stop Brussels' – Orban’s govt asks Hungarians how to deal with EU policies
Brussels wants to play it hard, Juncker to May: "You're not leaving a golf club"

Germany’s government has moved to stamp out child marriages by drafting a law that will raise the age of consent to 18 and give authorities the ability to break up unions involving minors.

The law is an effort to tackle underage marriages prevalent in some immigrant communities, according to local reports, after the Federal Ministry of the Interior released statistics showing 1,475 foreign children had been documented as married last year.

Marriage law in the European nation previously stated that a union was legal if it involved a person of 18 years of age and another aged at least 16. However, the draft put forward by the German cabinet on Wednesday raises the age of consent from 16 to 18 years of age and gives authorities more powers to crack down on the practice.

A union can be annulled by a court decision if a spouse was not 18 at the time of marriage.

“Marriages in which one of the spouses had not yet reached the age of 16 at the time of the marriage should be ineffective. There is no need for a judicial annulment procedure for these marriages,” a statement on the Federal Ministry of Justice reads.

The law also gives social services the capacity to take in unaccompanied refugee minors, even if they were married abroad.

Announcing the bill, German Minister of Justice Heiko Maas said, “children do not belong to the registry office or to the wedding hall.”

“A tightening of the current legal situation is necessary in particular with regard to marriages concluded abroad,” he said.

“We are concerned about the fact that minors who are married abroad are comprehensively protected under German law – more comprehensively and faster than before. Only those of 18 years of age can be married.”

The bill is set to go before the German parliament in July.

In the United States, so proud on it’s exceptionalism, exceptions in every state allow children younger than 18 to marry, typically with parental consent or judicial approval. How much younger? Laws in 27 states do not specify an age below which a child cannot marry.

young girl© Cyndi Monaghan / Getty Images

Unchained At Last, a nonprofit to help women resist or escape forced marriage in the United States, spent the past year collecting marriage license data from 2000 to 2010, the most recent year for which most states were able to provide information. We learned that in 38 states, more than 167,000 children — almost all of them girls, some as young 12 — were married during that period, mostly to men 18 or older. Twelve states and the District of Columbia were unable to provide information on how many children had married there in that decade. Based on the correlation we identified between state population and child marriage, we estimated that the total number of children wed in America between 2000 and 2010 was nearly 248,000.

Despite these alarming numbers, and despite the documented consequences of early marriages, including negative effects on health and education and an increased likelihood of domestic violence, some state lawmakers have resisted passing legislation to end child marriage — because they wrongly fear that such measures might unlawfully stifle religious freedom or because they cling to the notion that marriage is the best solution for a teen pregnancy.

In this way, U.S. lawmakers are strongly at odds with U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls, released last year by the State Department, lists reducing child, early and forced marriage as a key goal. The strategy includes harsh words about marriage before 18, declaring it a “human rights abuse” that “produces devastating repercussions for a girl’s life, effectively ending her childhood” by forcing her “into adulthood and motherhood before she is physically and mentally mature.” The State Department pointed, hypocritically, to the developing world, where 1 in 3 girls is married by age 18, and 1 in 9 is married by 15.

While the numbers in the States are nowhere near that dire, they are alarming. Many of the children married between 2000 and 2010 were wed to adults significantly older than they were, the data shows. At least 31 percent were married to a spouse age 21 or older. (The actual number is probably higher, as some states did not provide spousal ages.) Some children were married at an age, or with a spousal age difference, that constitutes statutory rape under their state’s laws. In Idaho, for example, someone 18 or older who has sex with a child under 16 can be charged with a felony and imprisoned for up to 25 years. Yet data from Idaho — which had the highest rate of child marriage of the states that provided data — shows that some 55 girls under 16 were married to men 18 or older between 2000 and 2010.

Many of the states that provided data included categories such as “14 and younger,” without specifying exactly how much younger some brides and grooms were. Thus, the 12-year-olds found in Alaska, Louisiana and South Carolina’s data might not have been the youngest children wed in America between 2000 and 2010. Also, the data collected did not account for children wed in religious-only ceremonies or taken overseas to be married, situations that Unchained often sees.

Most states did not provide identifying information about the children, but Unchained has seen child marriage in nearly every American culture and religion, including Christian, Jewish, Muslim and secular communities. It occured in families who have been in America for generations and immigrant families from all over the world. Parents who marry off their minor children often are motivated by cultural or religious traditions; a desire to control their child’s behavior or sexuality; money (a bride price or dowry); or immigration-related reasons (for instance, when a child sponsors a foreign spouse). And, of course, many minors marry of their own volition — even though in most realms of life, US laws do not allow children to make such high-stakes adult decisions.

’Let’s Stop Brussels' – Orban’s govt asks Hungarians how to deal with EU policies
Brussels wants to play it hard, Juncker to May: "You're not leaving a golf club"

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