Out of hundreds of bills introduced in the state legislature this session, one stands out: An Act Concerning the Minimum Age to be Eligible to Marry (HB6569). For a long time, Connecticut law did not specify any minimum age for marriage. In 2017, legislators banned marriage for those age 15 or younger, but failed to protect 16- and 17-year-olds. This bill rectifies the issue of child marriage.

LiveGirl, a Connecticut-based nonprofit girl’s leadership organization, is partnering with Unchained at Last, a nonprofit that combats forced and child marriage in the U.S., to address the issue of child marriage in Connecticut. We are partnering with bipartisan legislators and allies across the state to build support for HB6569, a necessary bill to protect and empower girls in Connecticut.

The bill passed in 2017 was a good first step but did not go nearly far enough, considering that 95 percent of the minors who wed before 2017 were ages 16 or 17, according to data from the Connecticut Department of Public Health.

Girls are disproportionately affected, as child marriage is heavily intertwined with customs and traditions that teach girls traditional rules for marriage. The majority of underage girls are married to adult men. Furthermore, a girl who is married at a young age is 31% more likely to experience poverty later in adulthood, and likely won’t have the resources to exit the marriage. For girls, marriage before their 18th birthday, before they have the full rights of adulthood, creates a nightmarish legal trap.

HB6569 is a remedy to an issue that weighs so heavily on the lives of our youth in Connecticut. It targets an archaic practice that impairs women and girls. It is time for Connecticut to push forward and do the right thing. It is time to pass this bill. 

The LiveGirl High School Leadership Council stands in support of this bill, and provided the testimony below on how this bill will empower girls statewide.

“This bill will not only protect young women and girls from the dangers of child marriage but more importantly support them in what they truly want to do with their lives. It is crucial that the Connecticut government gives them the option of choosing their path rather than giving permission for someone else to decide it for them. This bill empowers girls by ensuring their freedom is protected by the state.” – Maggie Murphy, New Canaan High School Junior 

“I firmly support HB 6569 and the steps that the Connecticut legislature is taking to expand girls’ rights. By banning child marriage, 16 and 17-year-olds are enabled to pursue education and their childhoods. It protects against domestic violence, financial poverty, and poor quality of health. When a girl marries before their 18th birthday, they may be subject to isolation from their community, leading to declining mental health. I hope that across Connecticut, we can advocate for a more equitable reality for our future generation” – Joy Ren, Wilton High School Junior

This bill will improve the lives of girls across Connecticut, and give voice to the victims who are experiencing pressure to marry at a young age. It is crucial for Connecticut to take this next step. Your voice matters. Contact your state legislators and urge them to prioritize HB6569 for the 2023 Legislative Session. 

Sheri West is Founder, CEO and Chairwoman of LiveGirl. Asija Qyteza is a LiveGirl Advocacy Intern, Wesleyan University ‘24, Women’s Rights Activist