Nalia’s law removes all exceptions that allowed minors to marry in New York state.
According to NBC, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law banning child marriage in New York state on Thursday by raising the age of consent to 18. The move comes four years after New York raised the age of consent to 17 with parental or court approval.
“This government has fought hard to end child marriage in New York and I am proud to sign this bill to strengthen our laws and further protect vulnerable children from exploitation,” said Governor Cuomo in a statement. “Children should be allowed to live their childhood, and I thank the many legislators and advocates who have worked diligently to advance this measure and to prevent forced marriages in this state.”
A 2021 study by Unchained at Last, an organization dedicated to ending forced and child marriage in the United States, found that nearly 300,000 minors were legally married in the United States between 2000 and 2018. Almost all minors were at least 16 or 17 years old, some were only 10 years old, which underscores the danger that minors can legally marry.
Child marriage contributes to the disproportionate exposure of young women and girls around the world to gender-based violence simply because of their identity. These forms of violence can include sexual harassment, female genital mutilation (FGM), and sexual abuse.
We fought hard to end child marriage successfully, and today I am proud to sign a law raising the minimum age for marriage to 18 in NYS.
Children should be able to be children. I thank the many lawmakers and lawyers who made this law possible. https://t.co/VM0ChVE4kh
– Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) July 22, 2021
According to the global NGO Girls Not Brides, girls who were married before the age of 15 were almost 50% more likely to experience intimate partner violence than those who were married after 18 years. Domestic and sexual violence has resulted in lower educational attainment and fewer economic and employment opportunities for girls.
For this reason, child marriage is another form of gender-based violence that is an obstacle to achieving the United Nations Global Goal 5, which advocates gender equality and the empowerment of women.
While New York took steps to ban child marriage in 2017, minors could still marry with parental or court consent, which, according to some activists, allowed the practice to continue. This is especially true in situations where parents, based on religious and cultural traditions, urged their children to marry young.
“The judicial review process is nasty because it tells a 17-year-old girl to find a way out of this situation,” Fraidy Reiss, founder and chief executive officer of Unchained at Last, told the New York Times in 2017. “If she’s the judge says she doesn’t want to get married, her parents know she said so. We have seen parents take revenge in many ways – lock a girl in her room or take her overseas and force her to marry there. “
With the signing of this law, called Nalia’s Law in honor of a survivor forced into child marriage at the age of 13, New York joined five other states in the United States – Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Rhode Island – who have forbidden minors to marry without exception.
The legislation will come into force 30 days after its entry into force and will apply to licenses issued after that date.
“Regardless of maturity, minors lack the legal rights and autonomy they need to protect them when they enter into a prenuptial agreement before they grow up,” said New York State Senator Julia Salazar, a sponsor of the law . “I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this New York Definitive Prohibition of Child Marriage Act and I commend Unchained at Last’s continued work in advocating a nationwide ban on child marriage.”