INDEPENDENT (UK) – Between 2004 and 2013, around 4,500 children under the age of 18 got married in the state of Virginia. Of these girls, more than 200 of them were aged 15 or under.
Last week, the authorities in the state introduced new legislation that updated rules that had until then made it legal for girls aged 12 or 13 to get married if they had parental consent and were pregnant.
The changes – a move that campaigners said brought Virginia’s laws into the 21st Century – followed a long fight by activists who said the change was aimed at curbing forced marriage, human trafficking and statutory rape disguised as marriage.
The Washington Post said that the legislation was the result of bills being passed by state politicians Republican Jill Holtzman Vogel and Democrat Jennifer McClellan. Similar bills were introduced in California, Maryland, New Jersey and New York this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The law, which took effect last Friday, set the minimum marriage age at 18, or 16 if a child is emancipated by court order. It takes parents and pregnancy out of the equation, the Post reported.