Thousands of girls in Tri-State area getting married while underage

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A disturbing issue affecting many girls in our area is being child brides. It's something you might expect in other countries, not to girls from the U.S.

A disturbing issue that affects many girls in our area is being forced into marriage when they are underage.

It might surprise you that thousands of girls under the age of 18 are getting married, often to men far older, and often with their parents permission.

In New Jersey, there is a proposed law to change the rules regarding child brides.

According to the health departments for each state, children under 18 who were married in New Jersey from 1995 to 2012 numbered 3,400.

In New York from 2000 to 2010, the number was 3,800, and in Connecticut from 2000 to 2014 it was 1,150.

"He took my youth, he took my innocence, he would lie me naked on the floor, the cement floor, and said it's your body but I own it," said child marriage survivor Naila Amin.

At just 8-years-old, as a U.S. citizen and a New Yorker, Naila Amin was engaged.

By 15, her father flew her to Pakistan and forced to marry her 28-year-old cousin.

"My dad gave him his daughter to beat and rape," she said.

Naila is now 26. At 15 she was married for five months before the U.S. State Department rescued her in Pakistan and brought her back to the U.S. for therapy and to live in foster and group homes.

"I remember for one week, pretending to have a kidney stone so he would not have sex with me," she said. "He took my passport and my cellphone and I said 'don't do this to me.' And when I told my mom 'please take me home' she said 'I can't, I have no say."'

In every state in the U.S., the minimum age to marry is 18. But a group called Unchained At says child brides younger than that are allowed as an exception, when parents or a judge okays it.

"Child marriage and forced marriage is happening in almost every religion and culture and community you can think of," said Fraidy Reiss of Unchained At who herself was forced to marry as a teen.

She is pushing bill A3091 to get rid of all exceptions in New Jersey and spread the same law to all other states.

"We've been referencing data state by state," she said. "There are girls as young as 12 getting married."

There was a protest against child brides in Newark just a few days ago, and in favor of New Jersey bill A3091.

"I just want the young girls out there who are listening or watching to know there are choices. I didn't have any," said Naila Amin.
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