End child marriage in Maryland

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Sungyoon Lim
Sungyoon Lim signed this petition

Throughout the world, marriage is celebrated as a joyous and exciting milestone in someone’s life, but for children forced into marriage, it can be frightening. Most often it is the girl that is forced into a marriage - often compromising her development by resulting in early pregnancy and social isolation, interrupting her schooling, limiting her opportunities for career and vocational advancement and placing her at increased risk of domestic violence.

Forced child marriages occur due to various circumstances. For instance, they may be carried out due to religious beliefs or due to the perception that a forced marriage will provide protection, family honor, and social and economic norms. The reasons as to why child marriage occurs depends on the specific family's needs and what would be the most beneficial for them.

Based on state marriage license data pulled and analyzed by the Tahirih Justice Center, from 2000 to 2015, at least 3,200 minors were married in Maryland alone and nearly 85 percent of those minors were girls. In a 2011 study published in Pediatrics, the official journal for the American Academy of Pediatrics, states that “Child marriage is associated with higher rates of sexually transmitted infections and HIV, cervical cancer, unwanted pregnancies, pregnancy termination, death resulting from childbirth, and malnutrition in the offspring.” According to the Human Rights Watch, women who marry before 19 are 50 percent more likely to drop out of high school than are their unmarried counterparts. Without any form of education, she can feel powerless in the relationship and find herself inferior to her spouse. Yet if a child bride wants to prevent or leave an unwanted marriage, the challenges can be insurmountable. In an interview with NPR, Jeanne Smoot, senior counselor to the Tahirih Organization, states that minors have difficulties accessing domestic violence shelters or obtaining restraining orders. With all these awful effects of child marriage, it seems as though the law would have intervened by now to put an end to this uncivil and inhumane issue. Unfortunately, this is not the case as of today.

The current Maryland law allows 16 and 17 year olds to marry with parental consent or a pregnancy and 15 year olds to marry with both. This law, however, does not protect children from parental coercion, leaving many children to be forced into marriages.

Please sign this petition to urge our Maryland Delegates to protect children in Maryland from forced marriages and give them the possibility to live a more independent future.

Thank you,

Marriotts Ridge High School Girl Up Club

For more ways to get involved contact the MRHS Girl Up club at girlupunmrhs@gmail.com

If you are facing or fleeing a forced marriage or know someone who is, please contact Tahirih Justice Center to get help at fmi@tahirih.org.