Bill aims to ban child marriage in Florida

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By Michelle Quesada

(WPTV) -- Currently, Florida law allows children at least 16 years old to get married if they have parental consent or if they have or are expecting a child together.

The Human Rights Watch organization says the law has life-changing consequences:

  • Girls dropping out of school when they get married
  • Health problems sometimes related to early pregnancy
  • Possible mental health problems
  • A higher risk of domestic violence
  • A greater likelihood that they and their children will live in poverty

Heather Barr is a senior researcher on women’s rights with Human Rights Watch.

"It's really shocking to us that child marriage Is still legal in al 50 U.S. states at this moment," said Barr. She says between 2001 and 2015, 16,000 children were married in Florida.

"They're being forced to get married because of pregnancy, they’re being forced to get married sometimes because of financial reasons."

This year in Palm Beach County there were eight marriage licenses issued to couples in which one or both parties were under 18.

But even the cases where two children at least 16 years old are in love and anxious to hear wedding bells are few compared to the harmful situations other kids are being married into, Barr says.

"As long as a child is under 18 they don’t have the ability to defy their parents they don’t have the ability to get out of a bad situation," said Barr.

A new bill is moving through legislative committees. If passed and signed into law it would make it illegal to get married in Florida if you are under 18-years-old.

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