hero image

McGill University has found that laws in the U.S don’t clearly distinguish between statutory rape and sex within marriage. The researchers discovered inconsistencies in enforcing laws that regulate sex and marriage. These laws endangered children as they created loopholes allowing people to take advantage of them.

The study discovered that 14 U.S states allowed child marriages and went against laws against statutory rape.

How researchers conducted the study 

According to the U.N, child marriage involves marriage to people under 18. Many human rights organizations are against child marriage as it negatively impacts the lives of children and reduces their education opportunities. Child marriage more commonly involves young girls.

The researchers evaluated statutory rape laws and marriage certificates in the U.S. Their findings showed the number of child marriages that met the definition of a crime ranged from 1% to 50%.

Surprisingly the team also found that 33 states allowed sex between married couples if the couple included an underage participant. Without this exception, researchers realized that marriages people would view as a sex crime in these states ran between 1% and 80%.

Researchers also found many variations in marriage laws within several states. For instance, some children could marry before becoming teenagers in some states. For example, the state had allowed the marriage of four children aged 12 since 2000.

Some states were more restrictive

However, some studies were more restrictive. For instance, before 2010, it was illegal for minors to have sex in Idaho if they were unmarried. In more restrictive states, marrying a child was a sex crime.

Sex under 16 is also illegal in Michigan if the child is unmarried. Fewer marriages in this state could be considered a sex crime since the children were often 16 and 17. The researchers now recommend reevaluating the laws to make a clear line between marriage exceptions and rape laws.

According to Kaya Van Roost, a study author, marital exceptions in cases of statutory rapes provide legal loopholes for sex crimes that would be sex crimes outside the context of marriage. Some other states that allow child marriages with exemptions are California, Maine, and Mississippi.