Las Vegas Sun

June 25, 2019

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Nevada bill would end exceptions for child marriages

CARSON CITY — Sara Tasneem says she was 15 when she was forced her to spiritually marry a 28-year-old man. She’d known him for less than a day.

A year later, she was legally married to him in Nevada. She was 16 and pregnant.

She was one of a handful of women who shared their stories at a hearing today at the Nevada Legislature on a bill that would ban marriages for children under the age of 18, with no exceptions. Eleven states have similar legislation pending.

Most states have laws that ban marriage under 18, but many states allow marriage as young as 16 with parental permission, and many others allow marriage even younger with the approval of a judge. Only two states — Delaware and New Jersey — ban underage marriage outright.

Nevada allows minors to be married at 16, and younger with judicial approval.

State Rep. Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod, D-Las Vegas, who presented the bill, said many marriages of minors in Nevada involve parties from outside of the state. “These people are coming to our state to take advantage of our lax marriage laws,” she said.

Kimberly Mull, a child sex trafficking survivor and owner of Kimberly Mull Advocacy and Consulting, said Nevada, with its reputation for quick marriages and its child marriage exceptions is “essentially being used as a trafficker.”

Fraidy Reiss, an activist and founder of the nonprofit Unchained at Last, spoke in favor of the bill, pointing out that the U.S. State Department classifies child marriage as a human rights abuse.

“How could a human rights abuse be in a child’s best interest?” she said.

The bill received no opposition.