This is a pretty uncomfortable subject. In fact, it’s so uncomfortable, we almost never hear about it here in America. If we do, it’s usually about some far-off land and usually ascribed to a culture with which most of us are not familiar. It’s not fun to talk about so it doesn’t get talked about and we just kind of assume it doesn’t happen. It turns out it does happen. Quite a bit. Child marriage is a problem in America just like it is everywhere else in the world.
It’s not limited to that exotic culture you read about, either. It happens in households of every religion, every culture, every race and every nationality. At least in places where it’s legal. Many countries have banned the practice outright. That doesn’t mean the practice doesn’t still happen outside the laws of the land. The United Nations and other organizations tracking this practice include a child living with an adult in the manner of a spouse in their definition of child marriage to account for this.
So what about America? Well it turns out that America has some of the laxest laws regarding child marriage in the entire world. Children as young as 14 can get married with parental consent in most states. Even more seriously, in many states a judge can allow children even younger than that to marry, often with no age restriction at all. This judicial approval is more forthcoming than you might hope.
Why is it such a big deal, if there are no laws banning it in this country? Well, it’s not just a “hm, that seems weird to me” feeling. There’s a lot of hard science showing that children who are married to adults suffer disproportionately from a host of health, psychological and developmental problems. The other issue is that most reasonable adults agree with the concept that children are unable to make fully consensual decisions about serious matters. Marriage is a serious matter.
Thankfully, this particular wedding between a child and an adult was created as an ad campaign to create awareness of the issue. Norwegians, like Americans, don’t think much of the subject and consider it a “foreign” problem. By putting a familiar face on the subject, Norway got a better idea of what this whole mess is all about.