RICHMOND — Only adults can get married in Virginia, according to a new law replacing policies that made it possible for a girl 13 or younger to marry if she had parental consent and was pregnant.
The law, which took effect Friday, sets the minimum marriage age at 18, or 16 if a child is emancipated by court order. It takes parents and pregnancy out of the equation.
The change is aimed at curbing forced marriage, human trafficking and statutory rape disguised as marriage. Activists say the previous law created a “fast-track to child marriages” for abusers who could evade investigation by child-welfare officials by simply marrying their victims.
Nearly 4,500 children under age 18 were married in Virginia from 2004 to 2013, according to data from the state’s Department of Health. That includes more than 200 children age 15 or younger.