Veils and chains: Advocates protest child marriage in Michigan
According to a 2021 study, nearly 300,000 children were married in the U.S. between 2000 and 2018.
LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Thursday, advocates against child marriage gathered on the state Capitol steps to protest child and forced marriages in Michigan. Dressed in wedding gowns with their arms chained and their mouths taped shut, they called on lawmakers to pass legislation to end child marriage in Michigan.
Under current Michigan legislation, 16 and 17-year-olds can get married as long as they have parental approval. Anyone under the age of 16 can get married with the approval of a parent and a judge. There is no minimum age required to be wed with the approval of a parent and a judge. The 10-bill package being introduced would prohibit any marriage involving a child younger than 18.
According to a 2021 study by Unchained, nearly 300,000 children were married in the U.S. between 2000 and 2018. In Michigan, 5,426 children as young as 14 were married between 2000 and 2021, 95% of those were girls married to an adult man an average of 4.3 years older than them.
“Child marriages are unfortunately still a reality in the state of Michigan,” said State Senator Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), the primary sponsor of multiple bills in the Senate package. “Marriage should be between two consenting adults —full-stop. We need to stand up for our kids and update our archaic state law to ensure that our children are protected from coerced marriages.”
Anthony noted that individuals must be 18 to sign a legal contract and said it should be no different when entering into matrimony.
The nonprofit organization Unchained At Last, which is comprised of survivors, is leading the protest.
“We cannot allow this human rights abuse to continue,” said Fraidy Reiss, a forced marriage survivor and the founder/executive director of Unchained At Last, the nonprofit that organized the Chain-In. “What better way to urge legislators to take action than to show them what life looks like for those who are forced into marriage?”
Joining Anthony and Reiss at the event were speakers including:
- Rep. Kara Hope (D-Holt)
- Becca Powell, Director of Advocacy and Outreach, Unchained At Last
- Denise Sylvester, Co-Chair, Zonta International District 15
- Michele Hanash, Director of Policy and Women’s Programs, AHA Foundation
- Courtney Kosnik, a child marriage survivor
- Arlene Nyhof, a child marriage survivor
- Nina Van Harn, a forced marriage survivor
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