In Idaho, there is a legal procedure for the legitimization and legalization of what can only be called child rape. Faced with the opportunity to stop it, the Idaho House refused last week in a 28-39 vote.
What can legalized child rape look like? Our former reporter, Isabella Alves, documented it in detail last year, focusing in particular on the story of a local woman named Shirley Perez.
“Raped at 12, married to her rapist at 13 and abused for 12 years before finally getting a divorce — Perez’s story of teen marriage was a personal hell, and she’s still suffering.
“The man she was forced to marry was 39 years old. She had her first child with him at age 14.”
From the marriage onward, all of this was legal. Not just legal — it carried the state’s blessing.
Idaho has no minimum age for marriage. As long as parents consent and a judge signs off, a 39-year-old can marry his 13-year-old victim here.
Some argue that the parental consent requirement will protect children. It did not protect Perez.
Some argue that no judge would sign off on a clearly abusive marriage. A judge signed off on Perez’ marriage.
Of the 38 states for which data is available, Idaho has the highest per capita rate of child marriage.
Not all child marriages may be as horrifying as Perez’ was. But marriage is a fundamental, life-altering commitment that should only be undertaken by a person who is developmentally and mentally mature.
And there is no conceivable excuse to allow a marriage between a 39-year-old and a 13-year old. House Bill 98 would have set the minimum age at 16.
It is hard to know what to say about a decision like this. The shame that Idaho is not better than this leaves us speechless.