As you might know, there’s very little good television between Christmas and New Year’s. Those of us who spend quiet holidays are left to surf the channels or stream. This year I had not seen A&E’s new series The Untold Story. If I had noticed it through the year, I would have likely assumed it was yet another detailed reality murder show and skipped over it. On Thursday my partner and I happened upon the show’s ‘I Was A Child Bride’ episode first aired on April 25, 2019. The host, Elizabeth Vargas, interviewed several now grown American women tell unbelievable stories of how they were forced into rape, childbirth and marriage at young ages. We’re not talking 17 or 18. We’re talking 13, 14 even 9 years old!
We were spellbound for a full two hours while these brave women recounted the appalling steps their families took to dispose of them into ‘Catch 22’ situations where they were too young to know what was happening or do anything about it. And, when they did understand, they were all too young (under 18) to go to a women’s shelter, acquire a lawyer, or get a divorce. From 2000 through 2015, there were over 200,000 child marriages in the United States – most under aged were females married to an adult male.
Currently in the U.S., only two States have passed laws preventing under age marriages: New Jersey and Delaware. Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Vermont, Connecticut and Maryland have put forward bills that failed. Some States have done nothing, other States have legislation pending. The worst, in my opinion, is California that recently passed a law to allow children of any age to marry with some ‘safeguards’ that are basically not enforceable. Wow!
Why have these efforts failed? It seems that the ‘old boys club’ in politics thinks that allowing young pregnant females to marry helps stop unwanted births to single girls. Yet statistics have indicated that these young girls have increased chances of experiencing violence, a 70% chance of eventual divorce, and an 80% chance of dropping out of school. Basically, the laws allow adult men to get away with statutory rape.
Vargas also interviewed in depth Fraidy Reiss, Founder and Executive Director of Unchained At Last – an organization working to prevent and free these poor young girls from their horrible situations. They are systematically going through each State to change the laws. If you want to help, visit unchainedatlast.org to see what they’re doing and what you can do. There are even job postings on the site.
Canada’s Civil Marriage Act sets marriage age at 16, plus our Criminal Code states that anyone involved in or having knowledge of under age marriage is guilty of an indictable offence. There have been 3,382 under age marriages in Canada since 2000. Heck, my own grandmother was married at 16. That’s not good enough! In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is working towards ending child marriage internationally. What hypocrisy! Of course, it’s an issue world wide. Some countries have no laws. Shamefully, Iran allows marriage at age 9.
Please write to your Ministers of Parliament to change the laws in Canada. Let Trudeau know that we are not in favour of our young girls being trapped. They deserve freedom to grow up and make their own decisions.