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Michigan outlaws child marriage

Wayan Vota
A Wedding Ring

Child marriage is now banned in Michigan.

Governor Whitmer signed several bills that will prevent anyone younger than 18 from getting married.

5,495 children under the age of 18 were married in Michigan from 2000 to 2022 according to the state's vital stats — 86% of them girls.

Democratic State Senator Sarah Anthony sponsored one of the bills in the package of legislation. “There have been many instances of children as young as 14 or 15 being married to 40-, 50-, 60-year-old men. It's gross, it's disturbing and we finally have a law that protects children," she said.

Anthony said the main point of the legislation is to address the abuse these underage girls can face. “If they wanted to get out of a forced marriage, if they were experiencing abuse, physical and emotional abuse, there were no protections. Particularly if you were 15 or 16 years old.”

Prior to these bills, Michigan law allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to be wed with parental or guardian consent, while those who were younger than 16 needed the approval of a judge along with permission from at least one parent or guardian.

Fraidy Reiss, the founder and CEO of Unchained at Last — an organization working to end child marriage in the U.S. — spoke about the importance of the bills. “Marriage before age 18 produces, first of all, devastating lifelong repercussions for children, particularly girls. It destroys almost every aspect of an American girl's life. Her life, her education, her economic opportunities. It even undermines her physical safety," she said.

Toussaint joined Michigan Radio in June 2022 as a newsroom intern and is currently working in his second summer. He is a senior at Howard University in Washington, D.C., majoring in journalism and minoring in Afro-American Studies.
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