Child marriages remain prevalent in the United States, with hundreds of thousands of children estimated to have married between 2000 and 2010, despite attempts to ban the practice, The Washington Post reports.
More than a dozen states, including Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Washington, have no minimum age for marriage under certain conditions. California, Ohio and Pennsylvania have legislation to increase restrictions currently pending.
According to the the nonprofit Unchained At Last, which campaigns to help women and girls in arranged and forced marriages, about 248,000 children were married in the decade between 2000 and 2010. Most of those children were girls, with some as young as 12 years old, who were married to men. Research suggests that child marriages most often end in divorce, and that teenage brides are much more likely to drop out of school.
In the report, the Post’s Terrence McCoy describes the scene of a wedding between 16-year-old Maria Vargas and 25-year-old Phil Manning. McCoy writes that Maria was most “terrified” of leaving school, saying that “she still didn’t know whether her mounting responsibilities at home would keep her from returning to the classroom” only two weeks before the new semester began.
Vargas and Manning, who live in Pennsylvania, drove to a courthouse in West Virginia out of fear that Manning would be arrested if they went to a local courthouse. Five months after the ceremony, Vargas and Manning were living with an unemployed friend in a trailer by the edge of Everett, Pa., where Manning worked making drill bits in a factory. Vargas was a “housewife in every sense,” but eventually returned to school, taking classes in the morning while Manning watches Douglas, her child from a previous relationship.
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