Yes, child marriage is more legal than you think. Out of the 198 countries world-wide, 117 of them allow for child marriages. This includes the United States, which despite having first-world country status, the archaic minimum age of marriage is sixteen. The countries that do have a minimum age requirement of eighteen years old for marriage are often not adhered to. There are plenty of exemptions and gender-exclusive laws that allow parents to sidestep protections for underage children they plan to marry. For example, some cases allow for only one of the spouses to be older than the minimum age requirement for marriage. And often, the minimum age requirement differ between gender, with females being allowed to marry at a younger age than their male counterparts.
But the scary reality is that communities around the world will ignore the age requirement and force marriage upon and between minors. Regardless of the religious implications and parental consent given for forced child marriages, marriage of minors is simply unacceptable. They are too young to take on the responsibilities and experiences of wives and mothers when they are still children themselves. The practice perpetuates gender inequality and treats girls as burdens and property. It dehumanizes them. Girls are thus exposed to violence and starved of rights, education, and opportunity. Not only do these exemptions and differing age requirements need to be reconsidered, the mentality of how many countries view and treat girls needs to change.
Learn more about the most recent statistics of child marriage here.