Critics have pointed out that laws regarding child marriage in the US are unfavorable compared to child marriage laws in other countries. In 2017, Human Rights Watch pointed out that Afghanistan has a stricter anti-child marriage law than parts of the United States: Afghanistan has a minimum age for marriage of 15, with permission from the father or a judge; Otherwise, there are 16.  At that time, 25 U.S. states had no minimum age for marriage at all, if one or more of the exceptions existed; That number has been steadily decreasing since then.  In 2017, all 50 states allowed minors to marry in certain cases. In 2018, six states banned all marriages under 18: Delaware and New Jersey in 2018, Pennsylvania and Minnesota in 2020, Rhode Island and New York in 2021. Other states have recently tightened permissive child marriage laws, raised the age and put in place safeguards. But most states still allow teens to marry at 16 or 17 if parents and a judge agree. Some allow 14- or 15-year-olds to get married. Nine states still have no minimum age for marriage, including liberal states like California — where opponents of ending child marriage include left-wing civil rights activists and pro-family conservatives. Idaho and California aren`t the only ones that don`t have a minimum age for marriage. The majority of states that issue marriage licenses allow 16- and 17-year-olds to marry, some allow 14-year-olds, and 13 states have no minimum age for marriage in September. Before 2016 — when Virginia became the first state to legally enshrine its age of marriage — more than half of the states did not have a legally mandatory minimum age for marriage.
In 2017, Texas raised the age of marriage to 18; However, they retained an exception that allowed emancipated minors between the ages of 16 and 17 to marry.  Negative physical effects often accompany child marriage. The most common are complications of pregnancy and childbearing.  The body is not fully mature until the age of 18, so minors who become pregnant often face complications that are not as common in their older counterparts. The severity of the punishment for child marriage, when criminalised, may depend on a number of factors, such as whether or not the marriage is forced and the young age of the child. Punishment also depends on how a state classifies the crime of child marriage – for example, as a crime, misdemeanor or violation. The sentence does not always mean imprisonment, it may be, for example, a warning, community service or a fine. Criminal law distinguishes between intent and motive. “Once a prenuptial agreement is signed, it is very difficult to get out of it,” Khan, also dressed in white, said at the rally. “When she`s under 18, it`s very difficult to find a lawyer, very difficult to go to court and ask for help.” In some cases, child marriage (legal or informal) may constitute forced marriage, often linked to sex trafficking.
This allows sexual abuse to continue. According to Nicholas Syrett`s American Child Bride, “There is a long history in the United States of marriage laws used to circumvent the legal effects of sexual activity with a minor.”  Because of the way many U.S. marriage guidelines are written, finding loopholes is a possibility that has been exploited before. In addition, women who have experienced sexual abuse are more likely to be victims in the future.  Unchained At Last, an organization dedicated to ending forced and child marriage in the United States, found marriage licenses for 232,474 children between 2000 and 2018.  Based on the correlation between population and incidence of child marriage, they estimated that the actual number of child marriages in the US during this period was closer to 300,000.   Progressive legal frameworks are part of a comprehensive response to child marriage, as expressed in the Girls Not Brides Theory of Change. Any legislative change to address child marriage must be accompanied by a comprehensive approach, supported by laws, policies and programmes focused on girls` empowerment and rights.
“Not once has anyone or organisation presented data to support the view that child marriage has benefits for children,” Levesque said, pushing his soft voice to maximum volume.