In the United States, we believe that forced marriage between a minor and an adult is something that only happens in other countries. Recent news about an 11-year-old who was forced to marry her rapist has shown a light on the situation in Florida, where it is still legal for minors to marry. “Children 16 and under are still being married at a rate of one every few days in Florida.”
“When she was a scrawny 11-year-old, Sherry Johnson found out one day that she was about to be married to a 20-year-old member of her church who had raped her. “It was forced on me,” she recalls. She had become pregnant, she says, and child welfare authorities were investigating — so her family and church officials decided the simplest way to avoid a messy criminal case was to organize a wedding.” -Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times. I suggest you read his eye-opening post full of terrifying statistics on child marriages in the United States.
250,000 child marriages occurred in the US during a 10-year period 2000-2010. How many more victims have there been in the last seven years? You may argue that some of them consented. However, minors do not have the mental capacity to consent. It is unbelievable to me that in 2017 a majority of the states in the US have no minimum age for marrying.
What can we do about it? Speak up and take action. Read this information at Unchained at Last to find out if your state is one that allows child marriage. If so, get in touch with your state lawmakers.
If you live in New Jersey, tell Governor Chris Christie that you support the bill (A3091) say it was designed to protect girls from being forced into arranged marriages that would make New Jersey the first in the country to ban marriages of people under 18. There is no ethical reason a minor under the age of 18 should marry. Gov. Chris Christie blocked the legislation.
New York legislators are considering a bill backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to raise the age to 17, from the current minimum, 14. If you live in New York, get involved, tell your representatives you want the minimum age raised.
You can learn more about forced marriage at the Tahirih Justice Center website: http://preventforcedmarriage.org/