Just imagine, being a young girl and being forced to marry a man who raped you. That was Sherry Johnson’s experience, who was in elementary school when her folks told to her she needed to wed the man who sexually assaulted her.
According to the New York Times, her 20-year-old spouse was an individual from her Pentecostal church. Unfortunately, he was not the only man to exploit her. Johnson told the Times that she was already assaulted by a clergyman and a parishioner inside her congregation — and she conveyed her first assault at 10 years old.
When she ended up noticeably pregnant for the second time at age 11, child welfare administrations began making inquiries. As a result, her folks wedded her off to maintain a strategic distance from a criminal case.
In Florida, as indicated by the state governing body, minors less than 18 years old can marry with parental consent. According to a non-profit organization called Unchained at Last, an estimated 248,000 children were married in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010.
Even though Johnson’s marriage didn’t last, the effects of the marriage have been devastating for her. Her education suffered because she had to put her school on hold to raise her family. She told the Times that her experience with child marriage still haunts her to this day:
“You can’t get a job, you can’t get a car, you can’t get a license, you can’t sign a lease. So, why allow someone to marry when they’re still so young?”
Now, Johnson advocates ending child marriage in the state of Florida.
A study conducted by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), found that around the world, an estimated 15 million girls are married before the age of 18. However, many more young girls suffer the impacts of child marriage for years even long after the marriage ends.
Initially, an administration agent denied Johnson’s marriage, but that didn’t stop Johnson’s folks from taking her to a neighboring district to get the permit anyway.
As indicated by Human Rights Watch (HRW), many states in the U.S. allow uncommon special cases for youngsters to marry when they are younger than 18 years old.
Heather Barr, a senior analyst at HRW, wrote on the association’s blog:
“Such a law is out of step with the rest of the world. Even in countries with high rates of child marriage, there is usually recognition that marriage under age 18 is harmful, and an effort to prevent these marriages, beginning with reforming the law.”
In an interview with Independent Journal Review, Barr revealed that she was disturbed when she learned about Johnson’s story, but she wasn’t surprised:
“It’s extraordinary that it’s been such a well-kept secret that child marriage is legal — and taking place — in every state in the U.S. Countries around the world have committed to ending child marriage by 2030, and are taking steps toward that goal, but the U.S. is way behind.”
She continued, “Child marriage is deeply harmful to children, no matter where it happens — Bangladesh, Nigeria, or Florida. Married children are more likely to drop out of education, live in poverty, suffer serious health consequences, and be victims of domestic violence. It is urgent that every state pass legislation to protect children by ending child marriage.”
What is your view on child marriage? Was it necessary in Sherry Johnson’s case? Sound off in the comments below.