Own it. Fix it.
The joy of working with statistics is that you find all sorts of things. Some good. Some largely unknown. Some people may not want to know.
The Miami Herald is having a field day.(1, 10) After all the immigrant bashing, they’re showing us the sins of the rest of the population, particularly white evangelicals. It’s not pretty.
Missouri is reportedly the destination for weddings by 15-year-olds. With extremely lenient marriage laws, a child can get married at that age with approval by one parent, even if the other objects. Mississippi requires that both parents agree.
And yes, there are Christian evangelicals who support laws enabling child brides. (2) That’s something shared by a lot of religious extremists. After all, the Taliban and ISIS are into that too. I’m not saying these people are alike, just that they have shared beliefs. A lot of people do. Just like the Hasidim share with conservative Muslims the belief that a woman can only show here natural hair to her husband, no one else. One uses a wig, the other a burka. Different tools for largely the same purpose. They are all Semites. If they want to hate each other, that’s their problem. The idea that there are common elements in their beliefs would probably horrify them.
Missouri is one of 25 states with no minimum age for marriage, although younger than 15 requires approval by a judge. How many marriage license forms are accurately completed is another matter. So we probably only know a portion of the child marriages that actually happen. I mentioned failures in state reporting systems in another post. No reason for this area to be exempt.
So kids from Illinois, Iowa, wherever, to to Missouri to mess up their lives. Or, as the citation notes, simply to keep a lover or rapist out of jail. Yes, statutory rape laws in this state are just as backward. However, some of these cases involve absurd age differences and alcohol.
Many of the marriages are clustered in the poorest sections of the state, along the border with Arkansas.
Courtesy of the World Bank, we know that child marriage is both a human rights violation and a huge drag on the economy in the places where it occurs.(7, 8) That’s very true in the US, where the poorest states are the problem areas. Even some writing from a religious perspective recognize the gravity of this practice.(9)
On the positive side, there are signs of progress.
Tennessee may be on the road to raise the legal age for marriage from 12 to 18. House Majority Leader Glen Casada (R) is bring a Democratic bill raising the minimum age back for reconsideration. In his words,
“Judges can rule that a 12-year-old can marry someone who is over 18. I just didn’t think that would exist,” Casada said. “That’s when the legislature has to act.”(3)
Florida just within the last few days voted to raise the minimum age for marriage to 17.(4) They had a striking case in which a 90-year-old married a teenager.
No, we’re not talking about Malawi or Nigeria. This is happening in the US. Doesn’t it make you proud?