New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law Thursday that ends the concept of child marriage in the state. When the new law takes effect in 30 days, the state will be just the sixth in the country to set the minimum age to marry at 18.
Senate Bill 3086/Assembly Bill 3891 will supersede a 2017 state law that pushed the age of consent from 14 to 18. However, that law still included a provision allowing 17-year-olds to get married with either parental or judicial approval.
According to Unchained at Last, an advocacy group seeking to outlaw child and forced marriages in the U.S., nearly 4,900 children were married in New York between 2000 and 2018. In almost every case, the group said, an adult male married an underage girl.
In a statement, Cuomo said he was proud to sign the bill sponsored by Assemblyman Phil Ramos, D-Brentwood, and Sen. Julia Salazar, D-Brooklyn.
“This administration fought hard to successfully end child marriage in New York. … Children should be allowed to live their childhood,” the governor said.
In a statement, Unchained at Last said it had been fighting to reform marriage laws for six years. The organization was part of a group of nearly 30 others that formed the New York Coalition to End Child Marriage.
Supporters of the new law say such marriages promote human trafficking and often lead to physical, sexual and other forms of abuse.
“Regardless of maturity level, minors lack sufficient legal rights and autonomy that they need to protect them if they enter a marriage contract before becoming adults,” Salazar said in a statement. “The vast majority of minors who enter a marriage are teenage girls, and getting married before adulthood often has devastating consequences for them.”
The bill was named “Nalia’s Law,” named after child marriage survivor Nalia Amin. According to a 2015 presentation to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Amin was born in Pakistani and came to New York at age 4. Four years later, her family promised her to a cousin 13 years her senior. They were wed when she was 15.
Eventually, she was able to escape back to New York, where she had been deemed a ward of the state.
Ramos, in a statement, said child marriages are “cruel and callous” leading to the traumatization of too many children.
“With the passage of this crucial legislation, minors in New York will be further protected from this predatory practice, and we can prevent stories like Nalia’s from repeating themselves,” he said.
In addition to covering marriage licenses issued a month from now, the new law will also apply to licenses issued before then but did not have an officiated ceremony take place before the law took effect.
This article was originally posted on New York raises age for marriage to 18