First National Coalition to End ‘Child Marriage’ in the United States Is Launched

To coincide with Human Rights Day on December 10th, Unchained At Last and Equality Now are launching a National Coalition to End Child Marriage in the United States. The Coalition brings together for the first time organizations and individuals, including survivors of “child marriage”, working to reform federal law, policies and regulations to end “child marriage” throughout the country.


Approximately 248,000 children, some as young as 12, were married in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010.


Marriage before 18 is legal in 48 US states, and there is no minimum age for marriage in 18 states.


Married girls are twice as likely to live in poverty and three times more likely than married women to be physically abused by their spouse. Between 70 to 80 percent of “child marriages” end in divorce.

The mission of the Coalition is to end marriage below age 18, the age of majority, and repeal all loopholes and exemptions in federal law, policies and regulations that enable, and even encourage, “child marriage.”

The Coalition will pursue various approaches to:


  • Remove statutory rape exceptions, including by amending 18 U.S.C. Section 2243(c)(2) so that perpetrators of statutory rape of children between 12 and 15 – which is a federal crime – cannot escape punishment if married to the child.


  • Ensure that no other federal laws, policies or regulations permit, encourage or facilitate “child marriage.”


  • Set a federal standard, if not pass a law, which includes specific language defining marriage under the age of 18 as a human-rights abuse.


Co-convenors: Unchained at Last and Equality Now

Unchained At Last is the only organization in the U.S. dedicated to ending forced and “child marriage” across the country through direct services and advocacy. It provides crucial, often life-saving legal and social services to help individuals resist or escape forced marriages. They also lead on awareness raising to push for social, policy and legal change at the state and federal levels.

Fraidy Reiss, Executive Director Unchained At Last, says:

“Child marriage is a human rights abuse that destroys girls lives, and we are determined to end it in the United States. To do that, we need to address it not only at the state level but also at the federal level. We must change dangerous federal policies and laws that allow, and in some cases even encourage, marriage before age 18.”

Equality Now uses the law to create a more just world for women and girls. Their international network of lawyers, activists and supporters holds governments responsible for ending legal inequality, sex trafficking, sexual violence and harmful practices including female genital mutilation and “child marriage”.


Shelby Quast, Director of Equality Now’s Americas Office, says:


“We are thrilled to be joining forces with Unchained At Last to launch the first National Coalition to end “Child Marriage in the USA. Equality Now works around the world to address this issue and it is time the US is held to the same international standard: 18 is the minimum age of marriage, no exceptions.  The law prevents minors from entering into legally binding contracts, a marriage contract should not be an exception.”


All organizations, decision makers, activists, advocates, survivors and allies who are committed to ending “child marriage” in the U.S.A. and who are in agreement with the Coalition’s mission are invited to join the National Coalition by visiting

Coalition members include:



AHA Foundation

American Atheists

Angry Black Muslim Woman

Child Labor Coalition

Girls Inc.
Girls Learn International, Feminist Majority Foundation
Girls Rights Project
Global Citizen
Justice of the Peace Association
Naila Amin Foundation
National Consumers League
National Organization for Women
The Hunger Project
The Institute for Full Potential Living



Kate Kelly – Human Rights Attorney, Equality Now

212-586-0906 x 26


Fraidy Reiss – Founder/ Executive Director, Unchained at Last