Assemblyman Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood) announced that he sponsored and passed Nalia’s Law, which would raise the age of consent for marriage to 18 and prohibit marriage if either person is underage (A.3891).
“Protecting our children and ensuring their vulnerable minds are not exploited or abused is crucial,” Ramos said. “My bill closes dangerous loopholes in state law that put 17-year-olds at risk of forced marriage and lifelong harm with little or no recourse. Correcting this oversight will help make New York a safer place for our youth by protecting them from dangerous predators and the physical, psychological and emotional trauma that follows. I urge the governor to sign this vital bill into law as soon as possible.”
“I join advocates and survivors across New York and beyond in applauding the Legislature for moving quickly to pass this child marriage ban. We urge Governor Cuomo to quickly sign this into law and end this human rights abuse,” said Unchained At Last Founder and Executive Director Fraidy Reiss.
Nalia’s Law is named after activist and former child bride Nalia Amin, who was married at the age of 13 in a ceremony in her native country. Nalia was repeatedly sexually assaulted by her husband, an adult 13 years her senior, fled her abuser multiple times and was eventually rescued by the U.S. Embassy two years later and returned to New York. Assemblyman Ramos met Nalia in 2019 and was driven by her story and activism to introduce this critical legislation.
The Tahirih Justice Center reported in December 2018 that over 200,000 children younger than 18 were married from 2000 to 2015. Of these youth, 87% were girls and 86% were married to adults. Around 70% of children married in New York from 2000 to 2010 were 17.4 years old.
Even with the safeguards previously added to the law, the judicial review process does not prevent forced marriage. While these safeguards acknowledge child marriage is often forced, it does little to mitigate the risk of these marriages. Minors are also disempowered through the judicial review process and are entered into marriages by parents and judges. When a child is forced to marry, the parents are typically the perpetrators.
Ramos noted that child marriages in our nation harm the mental and physical health of the girls or boys involved. U.S. women who are married as a child experience higher rates of psychiatric disorders, are more likely to seek mental health services and have a 23% higher risk of developing a serious health condition. Women between the ages of 16 to 24 also experience violence by an intimate partner at three times the national average.