The U.S. government frequently advocates for an end to child marriage around the globe.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights defines child marriage as one in which a party to it is under eighteen years old. Research shows that this practice often puts countless minors around the world in a position of vulnerability while also creating barriers to opportunity.
A landmark 2021 study by Unchained at Last found that an estimated three hundred thousand children were married in the United States between 2000 and 2018, the vast majority of whom were girls married to older men. Approximately sixty thousand occurred at an age or involved a spousal age difference that should have constituted a sex crime. Some were as young as ten.
There is currently no federal law banning child marriage in the United States. Although advocates have succeeded in getting seven states to ban child marriage with no exceptions, forty-three states still allow marriage under the age of eighteen, and seven states have no minimum age requirement for marriage so long as there is a parental or judicial waiver.
In California, which has no minimum legal marriage age, a 2017 bill to ban the practice was defeated after advocates—including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)—lobbied against it.
Before you turn eighteen in the United States, you cannot vote, purchase tobacco, or drink alcohol; in most states, you also cannot purchase a home because it involves entering a contract.