Muñoz bill protecting minors from forced marriages receives Assembly approval

TRENTON, N.J. – Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Nancy F. Muñoz protecting minors from being forced into arranged marriages was advanced today by the Assembly. The bill (S427/A865) prohibits individuals under the age of 18 from marrying or entering into a civil union.

“Marriage is a loving bond between two people yet there are some families in various religious faiths making their daughters marry against their will,” said Muñoz (R-Union). “It’s harmful and a violation of their basic human rights.

“Young girls forced into arranged marriages face so many difficulties,” she continued. “They have a very hard time getting out of the marriage, they face poverty going forward and the potential for domestic violence is higher. Thankfully, New Jersey’s children are now another step closer to no longer being victims of forced or arranged marriages.”

State law permits anyone under the age of 18 to marry with consent from a parent or guardian. A Superior Court judge must also approve if the person is under 16 years of age.

Muñoz said Fraidy Reiss, director of Unchained At Last, a group that helps young women and girls escape forced marriages, reached out to her for legislation to address the issue. Reiss was forced to marry against her will by her family when she was a teenager.

Nearly 3,500 marriages involving at least one partner under 18 took place in New Jersey from 1995 to 2012, according to Reiss.

“Forced into marriage by her family, Fraidy Reiss knows firsthand how devastating such a marriage can be,” said Muñoz. “I applaud her resilience in advocating for this bill and encourage the governor to support this important legislation.”

The Assembly and Senate overwhelming approved the same bill last session, but it was vetoed by then Gov. Chris Christie.