04:52 GMT +317 February 2019
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    Women activists, some dressed in wedding gowns representing child brides forced into marriage, hold placards that read End violence to protest rape and domestic violence.

    New Jersey Becomes 2nd US State to Ban Marriage for Girls Under 18

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    On Friday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a law setting the minimum age for marriage in New Jersey at 18, the second state after Delaware to set such a law.

    Previous state law in New Jersey allowed 16 and 17-year-olds to receive a marriage license only with parental consent. Teens under the age of 16 could also marry in the state but needed both parental consent and approval from a judge. 

    The new law requires people to wait until the age of 18 to obtain marriage licenses in the state.

    In an email to NewJersey.com, Fraidy Reiss, founder of Unchained At Last, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women and girls in the US to escape or resist arranged and forced marriages while rebuilding their lives, noted the enormous human rights implications of the new bill.

    "This is such a personal victory for me — because I'm a forced-marriage survivor, and because I wrote this bill, and because I worked for three years to turn this bill into law," Reiss observed, cited by Nj.com.

    "We ended a human-rights abuse that destroys girls' lives," she noted.

    According to data from the New Jersey Department of Health, 3,628 minors were married in New Jersey between 1995-2015. The majority of them — 95 percent — were 16 and 17 years old.

    "Marriage is a loving bond between two people," Republican state Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, one of the bill's sponsors, said following the signing of the law. "Forcing young girls into arranged marriages is harmful and a violation of their basic human rights. Getting this law passed was a long fight, but well worth it. I appreciate my colleagues support in helping this legislation became law."

    "We have a responsibility to protect our residents and a moral obligation to safeguard children, and preventing them from being forced into marriages is a social obligation we will now meet in New Jersey," State Senator Nellie Pou, another supporter of the bill, added. 

    The legislation was also supported by the National Organization for Women of New Jersey and Human Rights Watch.

    "In New Jersey, we are dedicated to protecting children by putting an end to child marriages by raising the minimum age to 18," Murphy said in a statement last month.

    "Studies have consistently showed that minors who enter into marriage — particularly young women — are less likely to graduate from high school and college and more likely to suffer domestic abuse and live in poverty. I am proud to join with the Legislature to make New Jersey a national leader on this important human rights issue," he added.

    However, last May, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed the bill, claiming that it "does comport with the sensibilities and, in some cases, the religious customs, of the people of this state."


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    law, marriage, United States, New York