Coalition to End Child Marriage

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In October 2018 the JPus membership voted overwhelmingly (95%) to join The Coalition to End Child Marriage in the United States.

The Coalition to End Child Marriage brings together organizations and individuals working to end all marriages of children younger than 18 in the United States. Child marriage destroys girls’ health, education and economic opportunities, and increases their risk of experiencing violence. Therefore, it is at odds with the JPus Code of Ethics that requires officiants to act in the best interest of their clients. Members considered how they would respond if they were asked to officiate a child marriage. In response, many voiced opposition to child marriages. They said that they would not feel comfortable performing them and would likely refuse to do so.

The problem of child marriage is real.

It is happening in the United States: about 248,000 children as young as 12 were married in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010*. States are beginning to recognize the real harm inflicted, and laws are gradually changing. This March 2018 article in USA Today tells the story of Sherry Johnson. She was forced to marry her rapist when she was 11 years old, and her story was the impetus behind Florida’s recent legislation.

Coalition’s Goals

The Coalition will pursue federal legislation and various other approaches. Goals include:

  • Removing the statutory rape exception by amending 18 USC 2243 so the marriage exception to the federal crime of statutory rape of children below the age of 16 is excluded.
  • Ensuring that no other federal laws, policies or regulations encourage or facilitate child marriage.
  • Setting a federal standard or passing a law that includes specific language defining marriage under the age of 18 as a human-rights abuse. This language already exists in US foreign policy documents.
  • Incentivizing states to set a minimum marriage age of 18 without exception.

Related Association Activity

  • In 2018 JPus partnered with Unchained At Last. As a professional association representing secular marriage officiants, we told legislators that we are opposed to child marriage. Joining the coalition takes our position a step further. Our voice is even more powerful when we can tell legislators that our membership voted to join the Coalition.
  • JPus’ partnership with the Tahirih Justice Center started in 2020 when we collaborated on a webinar for officiants about child and forced marriage.
  • Read more about JPus’ advocacy to raise the minimum age to wed.
* Unchained at Last, www.unchainedatlast.org/child-marriage-shocking-statistics/, Accessed November 5, 2018.