Believe it or not child marriage is not just an ancient relic from a sexist past. Nor is it a problem that exists only beyond our borders. Child marriage is a human rights violation that has affected more than 650 million girls and women alive today — including hundreds of thousands of American girls. In fact, between 2000 and 2010, an estimated 248,000 children as young as 12 were legally married in the U.S. Almost all of them were girls married to adult men. This is unconscionable.
Child marriage prevents girls from leading healthy and productive lives and puts their safety at risk. Child brides in the U.S. are 50 percent more likely to drop out of high school, four times less likely to finish college and close to a third more likely to end up in poverty. They face a 23 percent higher risk of heart attack, cancer, diabetes and stroke than women who married between 19 and 25 do, and an increased risk of various psychiatric disorders. A global study also showed they are three times more likely to be beaten by their spouse than those who marry at 21 or older.