Last year, a report by Unchained At Last discovered that more than 200,000 children were married in the US over the last 15 years.
After the turn of the century, you'd think that number should be close to zero. Unfortunately, boys and girls as young as 10 years old have been wed to individuals more than twice their age.
Many Americans are under the impression that child brides are only popular in polygamous communities, but it's actually happening all over the US, and in all sorts of families.
While the minimum age to get married in the U.S. is 18, there are some states that have legal exemptions. According to The Conversation, as of December 2017 "minors of any age can legally marry in 25 states if they meet their state's exceptions."
These state laws allow minors to get married if they have parental consent, the approval of a judge, or are recognized as adults.
This byproduct of poverty is sweeping the nation, and not much is being done to prevent this old-age tradition.
While states like New York and Florida have stepped up and banned children under the age of 17 from marrying, many people argue that it's time to ban child marriage altogether.
Missouri, in particular, is receiving a lot of backlash online. Their laws are encouraging teen brides to travel from across the country, and the reason behind why they're doing this will shock you.
Kansas City Star launched an investigation discovering that more than 1,000 teenagers have married in the state of Missouri over the past two decades.
Missouri has lenient laws when it comes to child marriage, requiring the signature of only one parent in order to legally proceed with the wedding.
This is why the state has become known as the "destination wedding spot for 15-year-old brides."
Happily ever after?
When Brittany Koerselman was only 15 years old, she left Iowa with her 21-year-old boyfriend, Jeremie Rook, because she was pregnant. She remembered that she felt like she had no choice but to go to Missouri and get married.
"I never wanted to get married, ever, like in my life... But I did it anyway, because it was either that or he go to prison, like, forever," Brittany recalled.
Haylee and her boyfriend, Ricardo Salas, were in a similar situation. Ricardo's family put pressure on the couple to get married before their son was criminally charged.
Both couples said they've missed out on so many things because they were forced to "grow up" at such a young age.
“Don’t, don’t do it. Marriage is hard on the normal person. … It’s not like the movies make it. It’s not a fairy tale. It’s not happily ever after," Brittany said.
Should child marriage be banned?
Fraidy Reiss, founder and executive director of Unchained at Last, told Kansas City Star that teenagers are very vulnerable to get married at such a young age, and if their marriage doesn't work out for the best, there will be dire consequences for them.
“It is evil to give children the so-called right to enter into this really serious contract before they have the right to safely navigate this contract, to say no to the contract, to be able to get out of the contract. That is evil," Reiss said.
As organizations like Unchained at Last work to ban child marriage in the US, religious communities in southern U.S. are pushing back.
"Some religious conservatives worry that without access to marriage, pregnant girls might turn to abortion. Others simply place faith in the institution of marriage to establish a happy and financially secure household," Nicholas Syrett wrote in his article for The Conversation.
"This is despite the fact that studies have shown that marriage as a minor is much more likely to lead to divorce, to dropping out of high school, to spousal abuse and to mental and physical health problems," he added.
Do you think child marriage should be banned in the U.S.? Or is it a democratic right for kids and their parents to have the ability to choose?