Child Marriage and the Failure of International Law: a Comparison of American, Indian, and Canadian Domestic Policies

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What is child marriage? The recognized definition does not adequately encompass the experience of child marriage. Child marriage stems from many elements, including coercion, force, and economic deprivation. Furthermore, child marriages have a long-term effect on child spouses, ranging from psychological damage, to health complications, to education and personal limitations. This paper argues that current international treaties and agreements do not specifically or directly address the issue of child marriage. Of those that make an attempt to, fail as a result of lack of enforcement or too much deference to religion as an exception of child marriage prohibition. In comparing three countries – The United States, India, and Canada, it is clear that Canadian policies work best and should be implemented on a larger scale. Current U.S. policies do not fully combat the child marriage phenomena, and although it is ahead of India in this area, it still has a long way to go in terms of development.

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