She was 13 when she was married off to a much, much older man, with approval from her parents. By the time she of age to make her own legal decisions she left her forced marriage to only then be disowned by her family. Dead to them for breaking free, is how she explained it in her May ‘Ted Talk.’ That woman is Fraidy Reiss, the founder of Unchained At Last.
Reiss said, “You’re probably thinking (I’m) from some remote developing country, actually I’m a born and bread American. I grew up in Brooklyn.”
Days ago New Jersey became the second state to pass a bill that bans marriage before 18, no exceptions. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill into law, something former Gov. Chris Christie had the chance to do one year ago. Delaware became the first state to ban the practice in May. Reiss and members of Unchained At Last were at both of the groundbreaking signings.
The non-profit helps girls escape their forced wedlock and is dedicated to ending childhood marriage through legislation. For the past three years Unchained “relentlessly promoted” action in the Garden State.
The group is known for their jaw dropping protests, “Chain-In,” where victims and advocates wear wedding dresses with chains around them, duck tape over their mouth, and take turns giving speeches, chanting, begging for protection of the county’s young girls and women.
The U.S. government denounces childhood marriage abroad, while at home there are still loopholes in 48 states’ laws that allows the union to happen. In some states a judge must approve along with a parent signature, but others may not even need a parent’s blessing.
In Pennsylvania, House Bill 1038 on Domestic Relations was referred to the Judiciary Committee last March. Shortly after Delaware passed their bill, Unchained held a protest at City Hall promoting awareness, chanting “1-0-3-8 save the girls in our state.”
The bill’s prime sponsor Bucks County State Rep. Perry Warren said, “We’ve gotten more co-sponsors in the past year…people are coming along. It’s a matter of both them spreading the word and moving it up the priority ladder.”
Warren and Unchained will be highlighted in a documentary called Knots The Film about women’s rights and domestic relations around the world.
As Unchained At Last put it, “Two down, 48 to go.”