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Proposed Legislation Will Raise Legal Age for Marriage in New York to 17

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A downstate Assemblywoman is trying to raise the legal age of marriage in New York to 17. Currently the law allows children as young as 14 to be legally wed with parental consent and court approval.

According to the New York State Department of Health website, “If either applicant is 14 or 15 years of age, such applicant(s) must present the written consent of both parents and a justice of the Supreme Court or a judge of the Family Court having jurisdiction over the town or city in which the application is made.”

Assemblywoman Amy Paulin believes that this marriage law allows parents to force their children into marriage and also allows for legal violation of statutory rape laws. According to her website, many parents threaten their child with beatings, ostracism or death if the child refuses to marry. Paulin says,

Nearly 4,000 minors were married in New York between 2000 and 2010 and more than 84 percent of those children were minor girls married to adult men. An adult can sexually abuse a child and avoid statutory rape charges by marrying the child. If an adult has sex with someone 16 or younger it is statutory rape but if the adult marries the child, then he can force her to have non-consensual sex whenever he wants. A child under 17 does not have the capacity to consent to sex under our penal law.

Paulin’s bill would prohibit marriage of children under 17 while marriage for children age 17 to under 18 would require court approval.

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