WESTFIELD, NJ — Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill Friday that bars individuals under the age of 18 from marrying or entering a civil union. It was a major win for Fraidy Reiss, founder Westfield-based Unchained At Last, a nonprofit dedicated to helping women and girls in the US to escape or resist arranged/forced marriages and rebuild their lives.

This makes New Jersey the second state to ban child marriages.

Reiss told TAPinto Westfield in the past that she has made it her life’s goal to end forced marriage.

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“Child marriage is often forced marriage,” she said.

The Westfield mom survived an abusive arranged marriage set up by her Orthodox Jewish family that began when she was 19 years old and lasted for the next 12 years – when she was finally able to hatch an escape plan for herself and her two daughters. In 2011, she formed Unchained At Last to help other women who face similar circumstances that she had to endure.

According to the New Jersey Department of Health, more than 3,600 minors got married in New Jersey between 1995 and 2015.

“In New Jersey, we are dedicated to protecting children by putting an end to child marriages by raising the minimum age to 18,”  Governor Murphy said in a press release. “Studies have consistently showed that minors who enter into marriage – particularly young women – are less likely to graduate from high school and college and more likely to suffer domestic abuse and live in poverty. I am proud to join with the Legislature to make New Jersey a national leader on this important human rights issue.”

The legislation bars the issuance of marriage or civil union licenses to all persons under the age of 18. Previously, New Jersey minors who were 16 or 17 could get married with parental consent. Minors under the age of 16 could be married after obtaining parental consent and approval from a judge.

Research has shown that young women married at 18 or younger suffer negative psychological, social, educational, and financial consequences, according to Governor Murphy’s office, and the legislation will play a crucial role in protecting New Jersey’s children and preventing them from being forced or coerced into marriages.

Bill sponsors include Senators Nellie Pou, Loretta Weinberg, Sandra B. Cunningham and Joseph A. Lagana as well as Assembly Members Nancy F. Munoz, Reed Gusciora, Pamela R. Lampitt, Raj Mukherji and Shavonda E. Sumter.