In what sounds like news from 1822, not 2022, Tennessee lawmakers will vote today to remove any age barriers for marriage. Twenty-four Tennessee Republicans are sponsoring House Bill 233. Current Tennessee law states you can get married as young as 17 if you have parental consent.
In the absence of federal law setting a minimum age for marriage, several states have outlawed child marriage, but the practice is still technically legal in 44 states. As a result, nearly 300,000 children were married in the U.S. between 2000 and 2018, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which defines child marriage as any marriage where at least one party is under 18 years old.
In Nigeria, The Problem Is Much Worse
Child marriage is an epidemic that has swept through countries like Nigeria, where at least 22 million child brides live today. To raise awareness of this hideous practice, SAGE Foundation launched a new campaign featuring a short film created by Yassa Khan of Camp Productions and edited by Sam Hopkins, the Lead Editor at Engine.
Filmed in Lagos, the film features young girls affected by this traumatic and widespread problem. These child brides, each of whom became mothers before they turned 18, all long to continue their education, but instead they find themselves responsible for a child they don’t know how to raise.
As part of the campaign, SAGE is launching a landmark petition to change legislation and ban child marriage in Nigeria. The petition, hosted via Change.org and launched in partnership with young activists It’s Never Your Fault, aims to reach 500,000 signatures.
The numbers of children forced into marriage are alarming. In Lagos State—considered to be one of Nigeria’s most developed regions—44% of girls are married before their 16th birthday, according to the International Centre’s Investigative Report.