A proposed ban on the alarming child marriage failed to receive approval in New Jersey as Governor Chris Christie rejects the bill. The Republican governor said that the refusal was to avoid conflict with various religious customs.
"An exclusion without exceptions would violate the cultures and traditions of some communities in New Jersey based on religious traditions," said the state governor in a statement.
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer and Nancy Munoz, Republican Assemblywoman who stated in a committee hearing about the number of compelling stories she heard on minors trapped in arranged marriages were the top sponsors of the bill. Working with them was North Jersey group and anti-child marriage advocate called Unchained At Last. Both houses of the legislature already passed the measure and are only waiting for the approval of the state governor.
Governor Christie, however, returned the child marriage ban conditionally to the legislature and proposed some changes. He suggested that the bill will at least allow 16 or 17 years of age as the minimum age requirement to get married. The governor also requested for exceptions in the law considering the citizens' religious and cultural beliefs.
The said request gained criticism from anti-child marriage advocates. "Which religion is he talking about?" said Fraidy Reiss, Executive Director of the Unchained At Last. "Has he joined some crazy cult since we last saw him? What is he talking about? Which religion requires child marriage?" she added wondering, according to Philadelphia CBS Local.
Opponents of the ban, on the other hand, believe that this bill will remove the rights of pregnant teenagers to get married. They even worry that the ban on child marriage will result in young parents' children to be born out of wedlock. Senator Nellie Pou (D-Passaic), however, expressed the sincerity of the legislation in the midst of various reactions the bill acquired.
"Marriage is a legal contract and it should be reserved for adults It is startling for people to learn that there are many underage marriages happening here in New Jersey," said Senator Nellie Pou of the Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect. "As a state, we have a responsibility to protect our residents, and moral obligation to protect children and this bill takes the necessary steps to do that," he added, as reported by the Progressive Secular Humanist.
Child marriage, however, is not a new story in the United States. A research revealed that from the year 2000 up to 2010 almost 250,000 children were married with the girls occupying the majority of the figures. The research was conducted by the group called Unchained At Last headed by Fraidy Reiss, who herself was arranged to be married at age 19 to a man who turned out to be violent. Knowing the stories of rape, abduction and traumatic pregnancies that may arise in arranged marriages, she boldly speaks against the governor's decision.
"For Governor Christie to come in and say, 'Nope. You know what? I don't want to end human rights abuse' even though it has strong support and even though there is no logical reason to continue this abuse' is absolutely shameful," said Reiss in a statement, as per The Independent UK.