Human rights activists celebrate passing of child marriage laws

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SEA BRIGHT -

A group of human rights activists dressed in bridal gowns and chains in a mock wedding on a Sea Bright beach Wednesday to celebrate the passing of a law banning child marriage.

New Jersey made history last month after Gov. Phil Murphy signed the law, which bans the state from issuing marriage licenses to anyone under the age of 18. Previously teens under 18 were able to get a license with parental or judicial consent.

The group Unchained At Last held the mock wedding on the beach. The group says that it is dedicated to ending forced marriages in the United States.

“In many states a child is allowed to marry but not ever allowed to divorce,” said Fraidy Reiss, the group’s founder.

RELATED: New Jersey bars anyone under 18 from getting married

New Jersey is the second state to ban underage marriage — Delaware was the first.

“We could have been the first state to do it, if not for Gov. [Chris] Christie having conditionally vetoed the bill last year. Just this once, I’ll take second place,” Reiss said.

It was Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz who pushed for the law.

“As I heard more of the statistics…it’s mostly young girls. They don’t get proper education. They live in poverty…and they have an increased incidence in domestic violence,” Munoz said.

Naila Amin says that she was impacted by childhood marriage and is fighting to have similar laws passed in the other 48 states.

“I was engaged at the age of 8, and at the age of 13 I was married in a Muslim ceremony,” she said. “We think we should make this a federal law.”

So does Reiss.

“We send a really strong message to the 48 other states…protect girls from this human rights abuse,” he said.

Over 3,000 minors were married in New Jersey between 1995 and 2015, according to the New Jersey Department of Health — about 95 percent were age 16 or 17.

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