Around 250,000 youth under the age of 16 have gotten married in the US between the years 2000 and 2010, a new report has revealed, raising the alarm over the growing trend amid lax laws.
American children younger than 16 could easily be forced into marrying if their parents agreed, Britain's Channel 4 News reported Sunday.
The report noted that only 25 of the country's 50 states had set a minimum age for marriage and the rest were yet to set strict laws prohibiting child marriage.
In Massachusetts, for example, traditional law allows girls as young as 12 to get married to boys as young as 14. Kansas also allows 12-year-old girls to get married.
In Texas, 9 out of every 1000 girls aged between 15 and 17 were married while in Florida, a child marriage occurs "every few days," the report warned.
"In some cases, parents can insist their pregnant daughter gets married even if she was raped," the report continued.
Child marriage also has a devastating report on American children's education since "child brides are 50 percent more likely to drop out of high school and four times less likely to graduate from college."
Last year, the US State Department launched its Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls, a program that it said sought to reduce "child, early and forced marriage as a key goal."
The strategy used harsh words about marriage before 18, calling it an act of "human rights abuse" that "produces devastating repercussions for a girl's life, effectively ending her childhood" by forcing her "into adulthood and motherhood before she is physically and mentally mature," according to The Washington Post.
The program has been questioned by activist groups, who argue that the US must address the growing issue at home first.
"We cannot solve the child marriage problem globally if we don't first solve it here in the United States," said Fraidy Reiss, the founder and executive director of the organization Unchained at Last, whose organization helps girls and women plan their escape from forced marriages.