Children have a right not to be forced into marriage

Diana Philip’s commentary, “Marriage is a human right, don’t strip it from teens” (April 16), mischaracterizes the three-year campaign to end child marriage in Maryland and ignores the compelling drivers behind it. The Tahirih Justice Center, which has served Maryland survivors of violence since 1997 and has specialized forced marriage expertise, joined many other Maryland supporters, including former child brides, in urging legislators to close loopholes in current law (“Effort to limit teen marriage in Maryland failed amid concerns from abortion rights, women’s groups,” April 12).

These loopholes make it stunningly easy for someone under age 18 to be forced into marriage or trapped in an abusive marriage without the rights or resources to escape. The reasons Ms. Philip cites to justify exceptions — religion, culture, pregnancy, abuse at home — are instead reasons we need a stronger rule, as they are often used to pressure girls into unwanted marriages. Maryland should prioritize the fundamental right of children to be protected from known risks to their health, safety and welfare.

Kristen Strain, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Tahirih Justice Center’s Baltimore office.

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