Forced marriage survivor applauds Michigan's ban of child marraige

Michigan became the 10th state in the nation to take a stand against child marriage - and the move has earned praise from advocates against the practice, as well as from those opposing forced marriage.

Nina Van Harn tells us her story of forced marriage. Her father told her when she was 19 who she would have to marry.

"I knew my father was going to pick my spouse from a pretty early age," she said. "Child marriage and forced marriage, they kind of intersect. It’s both about power and control, lack of consent and obviously the younger you are, the more devastating it is."

That’s why Van Harn sees new laws as giving Michigan’s kids a fresh layer of protection.  

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed off on a series of bills ensuring no child under 18 gets married in the state. With this move, Michigan joins nine other states in America, completely banning child marriage.

"More than restricting it, we've closed all the loopholes - there’s no way that’s happening," Van Harn said.

Previously with a parent's approval or a judge signing off, children in some circumstances, could be married off.

"These girls who are under the age of 18 they’re not underage women - they’re girls, they're children," she said.

Related: New laws ban child marriage in Michigan

The law isn’t just ink on paper. Behind it, stories of young lives disrupted - girls robbed of education and a stable domestic future.

Legislators and advocates hail the ban- because to them it was long overdue, and gives young Michiganders, especially girls, a shot at brighter future.

Nina Van Harn

Nina Van Harn