Violence Against Women

A Win For Youth in Virginia

On February 13th, the Virginia House of Delegates voted to pass House Bill 994, a bill that bans child marriage in all its forms. Virginia was one of the first states to ban child marriage in 2016, but there has always been a loophole allowing emancipated children between 16-18 years old to get married. Now, Virginians have to be 18 in order to marry. The loophole has historically raised concern for many organizations who saw it as an opportunity for children, disproportionately girls, to be exploited and coerced. 

Before 2016 there was no minimum age requirement to get married in Virginia, just certain criteria that had to be met for a judge to approve the marriage. Usually, this was because a young girl was pregnant, some aged 12 and 13. Almost 4,500 minors were married between 2004 and 2013 – about 90% of those minors were girls who married adult men.

Today’s vote has resulted in a win for everyone. The bill passed with strong bipartisan support, 55 to 42, and children, in particular girls, will now be protected from being exploited. Virginia NOW tirelessly led the fight for this victory. They introduced the “End Child Marriage Now” bill into the Virginia legislature and are to thank for the facts and testimonies that helped the Virginia lawmakers reach the decision to protect their children. The organization celebrated after the vote posting on Twitter, “child marriage survivors are elated and there is some combination of crying and shaking going on among us all! Onward to the Senate.”

Support eh ERA banner