Human Rights Watch (HRW) is urging Yemen to set 18 as the minimum age for marriage to improve girls’ opportunities for education and protect their human rights.  Many Yemeni girls, some as young as 8 years old, are forced into marriage, according to a HRW report released yesterday titled, “How Come You Allow Little Girls to Get Married?”

Child marriage is a harmful cultural practice that persists in many countries around the world.  Often, the bride is a teenaged girl, and the groom a significantly older man.  Some families resort to violence or even ‘honor’ killing to punish girls who are perceived to have shamed themselves and dishonored their families by resisting or fleeing a non-consensual marriage.  Child marriage often prevents girls from completing their education, and traps many child brides in an endless cycle of poverty.  Other harmful consequences often associated with early marriage include increased infant and maternal mortality and morbidity rates, higher HIV/AIDS and STI rates, obstetric fistula related to early childbirth, rape, domestic violence, and even suicide. 

According to the UN Division for the Advancement of Women, “As a child under the age of 18 is not capable of giving their valid consent to enter into marriage, child marriages are considered to be forced marriages.”  Yet, many countries still permit underage marriage or fail to enforce laws prohibiting the practice.

Would it surprise you to learn that some U.S. states permit children as young as 12 years old to lawfully marry?  We want to know what YOU think…