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Raising marriage age seen as weapon against human trafficking

Jeff Belmonte | Cuiabá, Brazil | Creative Commons, Wikipedia

The age in which teenagers can receive a marriage license would increase to 17 under legislation pre-filed in the Missouri House.

Currently, teens as young as 15 can get married in Missouri with at least one parent's permission.

Rep.-elect Jean Evans, R-Manchester, says human traffickers are taking advantage of the current marriage age requirement.

"These numbers are skyrocketing, and in most cases these 15 and 16 year olds are marrying significantly older men," she said. "It's young women marrying older men."

Evans said it's difficult to investigate cases based on marriage licenses alone.

"Marriage licenses are not filed by age," she said. "The recorder of deeds offices are not really equipped to determine extenuating circumstances, so as long as there is one parent there to give consent, they're allowing children as young as 15 to marry."

She also cited a finding from a Missouri House task force on human trafficking, in which some parents have been involved in trafficking their own children.

"As alarming and as disgusting as it is that a parent would sign off on something like this, it does happen."

The minimum age someone in Missouri can get married without their parents' permission is 18.

The 2017 legislative session begins Jan. 4.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.