Child is a mother and a wife Teen bride: Legislators need to re-examine Maryland law that allowed 13-year-old to marry.

October 06, 1998

THE SITUATION of Tina Lynn Akers, the 13-year-old Annapolis mother who married the 29-year-old father of her son, may be fodder for the afternoon television shows that thrive on human dysfunction, but it is profoundly disturbing.

According to our societal norms, girls the age of Ms. Akers are not supposed to marry and bear children.

Yet Maryland law allowed Ms. Akers, a seventh-grade dropout, to marry Phillip Wayne Compton Jr., an Annapolis roofer, because she was pregnant and received her parents' permission.

The General Assembly should re-examine the wisdom of allowing marriages of 13-year-olds under any circumstances. They are not mature enough to care for themselves, let alone a baby. They don't have enough knowledge and judgment to manage their lives.

Changing the law will not retroactively affect the case of Ms. Akers. Since she and her husband have moved to Virginia to live with her mother, Maryland officials can't do much at the moment. Clearly, she should resume her education. Both states have mandatory school attendance laws for children that age, and local officials should ensure that she and her family comply.

As for Mr. Compton, he presents another problem. By having sex with a 13-year-old, he can be charged with the crime of statutory rape. One who commits rape shouldn't be absolved of the crime just because he can marry the victim.

Under any circumstances, the prosecution would be difficult. Ms. Akers could not be compelled to testify against her husband. Also, her parents, who condoned the relationship and marriage, would not presumably aid the prosecution.

Statutory rape has no statute of limitations. Mr. Compton could face these charges any time in the future. His marriage to Ms. Akers is contrary to societal norms. It can't be undone. But lawmakers must act to prohibit such unions in the future.

Pub Date: 10/06/98

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