Missouri children’s rights lag among states – Daily Journal

Missouri children’s rights lag among states

A recent international human rights group report ranked Missouri in the bottom third of all states for child rights, partly because Missouri still allows child marriage and corporal punishment in schools.

The report, published by the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch, measured every state’s laws against the standards of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international treaty that the U.S. has not ratified.

The organization examined every state’s laws on child marriage, corporal punishment, child labor and juvenile justice.

“It’s disappointing that so many states still fail to meet international children’s rights standards,” Callie King-Guffey, lead researcher for the project, said in a press release, “but this progress shows that policymakers have the potential to bring about rapid change to protect children.”

No state received an A or B grade. Missouri and 15 other states received an F grade. Eleven states improved since last year, but Missouri did not.

The top state for compliance with international child rights standards was New Jersey, and the bottom was Mississippi.

“The U.S. has a long way to go to bring its laws and policies into alignment with international children’s rights standards,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

Child marriage

For years, Missouri had among the most lenient child marriage laws in the nation, which made it an especially popular state for 15-year-olds to travel to be married.

That changed in 2018, when lawmakers raised the minimum age of marriage to 16, with the consent of one parent or guardian.

But that still isn’t aligned with international standards, which set the minimum age at 18. Activists argued at the time Missouri’s new law would continue to leave 16 and 17-year-olds vulnerable to potential coercion.

Ten states have, since 2018, banned marriage for those under 18.

Earlier this year, Missouri’s marriage laws once again garnered national attention when a video of Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, discussing his vote against raising the age for marriage went viral.

“Do you know any kids who have been married at age 12? I do. And guess what? They’re still married,” Moon said, in response to questions about his earlier vote against the bill.

In a video “Setting the Record Straight,” Moon later explained that the couple had married in their teens after the girl became pregnant.

“They weren’t forced,” he said, adding that the reason he voted against the 2018 language was “because allowances for these extreme exceptions were not included.”

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