Patricia Levesque

Let a child be a child

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Patricia Levesque
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Cassie has started her Gold Award Project- Let a child be a child- She is planning on trying to change the addendum to the minimal age children can marry law in New Hampshire. We would love to have the law protect children under age 18 from marriage but know that it is better to ask for support raise the addendum age from 13 for girls and 14 for boys to age 16 for both.

Neither physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers, child brides are at greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications in pregnancy and childbirth, contracting HIV/AIDS and suffering domestic violence. With little access to education and economic opportunities, they and their families are more likely to live in poverty.

Communities and nations also feel the impact: systems that undervalue the contribution and participation of girls and women limit their own possibilities for growth, stability and transformation.

Child marriage is legal in every state and thousands of children as young as 12 have been legally married in the U.S. in recent years. In fact in 2014 57,800 children were married. Child marriage has been deemed a human rights violation and a global call to action has been made.

The minimum marriage age in in most US states is 18. However, every US state allows exceptions under which children – defined by United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as anyone under age 18 – can wed.

Common exception #1: “Parental consent.” In most states, children age 16 or 17 can marry if their parents sign the marriage license application. However In New Hampshire boys as young as 14 and girls as young as 13 can marry with Parental and judicial Consent. Obviously, “parental consent” can actually be “parental coercion,” but state laws do not call for anyone to ask the children whether they are being pressured into marriage. Even when a girl sobs openly while her parents sign the application and force her into marriage, the clerk has no authority to intervene.

If we are to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and uphold the human rights of women and girls, we must act now to end child marriage. This is one small step that we can do to help the children.

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