Bill aims to eliminate child marriages in Virginia

Published: Mar. 11, 2016 at 3:23 PM EST|Updated: Apr. 13, 2017 at 8:19 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The legal age for marriage is 16 in Virginia, but an exception can be made for girls under 16 if they are pregnant. To get court approval, there must be parental consent and proof that the child is pregnant.

Two bills made their way through the General Assembly this year that seeks to close this loophole. If Gov. Terry McAuliffe signs the legislation, the legal age to get married will change to 16 for everyone. Parental consent and approval from a juvenile and domestic relations court will be required.

Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Fauquier, told WTOP in Washington that the bill is looking out for the child's best interest.

"Someone, instead, should be asking the question, 'Well if this 13-year-old is pregnant, isn't that evidence of statutory rape?' Is that not a crime?" Vogel said to WTOP.

The bill sitting on the governor's desk states that the couple wishing to get married must be "mature enough to make such a decision to marry" and that the "marriage will not endanger the safety of the minor."

The World Policy Center, an organization that analyzes government policies, says that 88 percent of countries around the world have a legal minimum age of 18 for marriage.

The group says that "women married before the age of 18 are three times more likely to have been beaten by their spouse than women married at age 21 or older."

In the U.S., marriage laws vary by state. There are currently seven states where girls can get married under the age of 16 with parental consent.

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