Up until last Friday, a young woman 13-years-old or younger could marry if she was pregnant at the time and had parental consent.
New legislation signed into law has set the minimum age of consent for marriage to 18 or 16 if the child has been emancipated by a court order, reports the The Washington Post.
With the new law, parental consent and pregnancy no longer constitute a justification for marriage for pre-teens or teenagers.
According to The Washington Post, the new laws are designed to curb forced marriage arrangements, limit human trafficking cases throughout the state and decrease statutory rape cases that are not prosecuted under the guise of underage marriage.
For nearly a decade, almost 4,500 children under the age of 18 from 2004 until 2013 and of those 4,500 more than 200 were age 15 or younger. In most cases, “90 percent of the underage spouses were girls; in many cases, the girls married men age 21 or older, and sometimes the men were decades older,” shows data from the Virginia Department of Health.
Just this year, similar bills have been introduced in California, Maryland, New Jersey and New York to change the legal marriage age to at least 18 or 16 with emancipation.
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