Amanda Parker, Interim Executive Director, on Stopping Child Marriage and Protecting Childhoods

Dear AHA Foundation Supporter,

I love Halloween. Celebrations around my neighborhood bring back special childhood memories. I remember having a great time with my parents working late into the night to finish making costumes for my brother and me. One particularly late night was the year when I was a pink crayon and my brother was a box of crayons.

Every year, I look forward to trick-or-treating, to seeing the anticipation in the children’s eyes when I open the door and the obvious joy when they get a hold of a new piece of candy – these are just a few moments happy childhoods should be made of for every child.

But that is not the case, even in our great country. I am enraged that many girls across the US do not have a chance for happy childhoods. Instead of playing make believe, instead of creating fantasy costumes with their parents, instead of being kids – they are forced to be a spouse to an often much older men – to cook, clean and have intercourse.

I know that you also care about these children. And about what we need to do together to end forced marriage and other harmful traditional practices. You can help protect the innocence of childhood for all girls in the US.

Just how big is the issue of forced marriage in the US? Recent research into marriage records in New Jersey has shown that more than 160 minors between the ages of 13 and 15 were married off in this state alone from 1995 to 2015. Nearly all were girls, the majority married to older men.

This is more than six classrooms of middle-school aged girls! Their childhoods have been forcefully ended, their books and after-school activities have been replaced with servitude to significantly older men. This is unacceptable.

According to Unchained at Last, marriage records show that tens of thousands of children, as young as 12, were married in the US in the last decade. All that is needed to marry off an underage girl in the majority of states is her parents’ or judicial approval. This must be changed.

If you are a New Jersey resident, advocate for the change of laws that allow child marriage in your state.

Because of forced marriage, female genital mutilation and other harmful traditional practices, every year thousands of girls in the US are robbed of happy childhoods. The AHA Foundation is one of few organizations in the US fighting for the girls who are unable to protect themselves. You have a power to change that. On behalf of these girls, thank you for your continued support.

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Amanda Parker, Interim Executive Director


 

To learn more about the prevalence of honor violence in the United States, read an article in The Atlantic “Honor Killings in America” written by our founder, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

To read a powerful story from another survivor, you can also read “Hila’s story: Choosing a Life of Hiding to Escape Honor Violence”.

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