This article was originally published on Newsworks on April 11, 2016.  

Current law requires 16- and 17-year-olds in New Jersey to get their parents’ permission to wed. Children under 16 need a judge’s approval.

Now a measure introduced in the legislature would prohibit marriage for anyone younger than 18.

About 3,500 New Jersey residents under 18 got married between 1995 and 2012, said Fraidy Reese, who directs Unchained at Last, a group helping women escape from forced marriages.

Marriage at such a young age, she said, undermines girls’ health, education, and economic opportunities.

“Women who marry early develop more mental and physical health problems. Adolescents who marry are less likely to finish high school and much less likely to finish college,” she said. “Adolescents who marry are more likely to earn low wages, more likely to live in poverty.”

And marriage before the age of 18 has a 70 to 80 percent chance of ending in divorce, Reese said.

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