The Maneater

Column: Child marriages are last resort for couples that should not be together in the first place

Child marriages are a safe haven for statutory rapists.

Tatyana Monnay is a freshman journalism major at MU. She is an opinions columnist who writes about politics for The Maneater.

Child marriage is a primitive and barbaric practice. In the United States, of all places, one might think that laws allowing children to be married off to adults would not exist. However, the U.S. has let this fall through the cracks of its judicial system, allowing the practice to continue.

In at least some capacity, child marriage is legal in almost all 50 states in the U.S. Most states do not allow marriage of children under 18 years old. However, in some of these states, a loophole exists allowing people to beat the system. As long as the parents or judge grants permission, the marriage is back on.

Missouri is one of the easiest states in which minors can get married. In Missouri, the law is too lax, making it a prime destination for underage marriages.

14-, 13-, 12-year-olds or even younger are able to get married with a judge’s approval and parent signature. From ages 15 to 17, it takes just the signature of one parent, even if the other parent objects.

In an investigative series by the Kansas City Star, it was found that several child brides are married off to their rapists. In these cases, pregnant child brides are often manipulated by their rapists and neglectful parents.

This was the case for Brittany Koerselman.

Koerselman married her rapist at 15 years old when her neighbor alerted the police that she was almost seven months pregnant by her 21-year-old boyfriend. She did not want to get married, but she and her family knew that eventually her boyfriend Jeremie would be arrested for statutory rape.

This is the typical story for pregnant child brides. Parents often want to protect the reputation of their family and not have a child out of wedlock, protect the adult boyfriend from rape charges or a combination of both.

For many child brides, marriage almost always equals an abusive relationship. This is especially true for underage Missouri brides and husbands. According to Girls Not Brides, an anti-child marriage organization, 44 percent of 15- to 19-year-old girls believe a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife in certain circumstances.

Married minors are not able to file for divorce without a parent signature. They are also too young to check themselves into an adult shelter, leaving them with no safe place to turn when their marriage inevitably goes wrong.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, child brides are more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders. They are also more likely to drop out of high school, leaving them to struggle to get a GED and struggle to maintain a steady job with good pay.

The real question: Why are we allowing children to marry adults? Why are we letting 15-year-olds take the plunge and say “I do” before they can even drive by themselves?

The minimum age to get married should be 18 years old; this should be a law here and abroad. The U.S. has started initiatives to end child marriage globally, such as the United States Agency for International Development, an organization dedicated to assisting in the development of struggling nations. However, before we attempt to change the realities of young girls abroad, we need to fix our own child marriage problems.

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