A wedding in Israel was broken up this week by police–because the bride was 14 years old. The groom is said to be in his 20s, and apparently, the father of the bride is a rabbi in the Breslov Hasidic sect, according to JTA.
Because allowing an underage child to marry is a criminal offense in Israel, the father and groom were arrested Monday night, although they were later released under house arrest.
It may sound salacious, but underage marriage in the U.S., for instance, isn’t nearly as rare as you would hope it is. According to a 2016 Human Rights Watch report, one in three girls in the developing world marries before the age of 18. In the U.S., it’s far easier to get exceptions made just by asking for judicial consent or a legal guardians’ permission, according to the Pew Research Center.
CBS reported that “in 27 states, the law does not specify any minimum age below which a child cannot marry, according to Unchained At Last.” Meanwhile, the New York Times found that “more than 167,000 young people age 17 and under married in 38 states between 2000 and 2010.”
This is why Fraidy Reiss, an Orthodox Jewish woman who was forced to marry at 19 (and divorced 15 years later, filing a restraining order and gaining full custody of her children), founded the organization Unchained At Last, which fights forced marriage and child marriage. She told the Times that forced marriage usually always means rape:
“For almost all of them, marriage means rape on their wedding night and thereafter.”
The nonprofit also helps girls and women rebuild their lives after their marriage–providing pro bono legal support, divorce litigation, custody battles, restraining orders, helps secure housing, find therapists and doctors, financial assistance, and more.
These types of situations are sadly not as unusual as they should be–which is why we should be vigilant about protecting women and girls, and our basic human rights.