New bill aims to end ‘child marriages’ in Washington state

Feb 1, 2023, 12:42 PM | Updated: 2:49 pm
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State Capitol in Olympia. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Washington state currently does not ban child marriages. A new bill in the state legislature would change that.

Seven states currently ban child marriages for people under 17. There have been 4,800 since 2010.

The bill would void such marriages in most circumstances.

“In this country, child marriage has had a long history of abusive and coercive marriage and contributes to a lot of our human trafficking challenges,” Rep. Monica Stonier (D-49th District) said. She co-sponsored the bill with several other Democrat representatives and one Republican.

“My dad introduced me to a man one morning and I was told I would marry him that night. He was 28. I was 15,” Sara Tasneem, a victim of child marriage, told a legislative committee.

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Tasneem told lawmakers the husband she was forced to take was a child rapist. Current Washington state law absolved him of any wrongdoing.

“The law specially exempts married couples so in many ways it is a get-out-of-jail-free card for a child rapist,” said Fraidy Reiss, a child advocate.

The bill would void marriage for anyone under 18. It is not clear how far the bill would reach back. The bill is still in committee.

The intent is to stop human trafficking and forced marriages.

“I can’t think of one good reason that Washington would want to continue to expose minors to these great harms and abuse,” Tasneem said.

Matt Marokvich covers politics and legislative issues for KIRO Newsradio

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New bill aims to end ‘child marriages’ in Washington state