Florida Woman Forced to Marry at 11 Inspires New Law - FreedomUnited.org

Florida Woman Forced to Marry at 11 Inspires New Law

  • Published on
    January 31, 2018
  • Written by:
    Jamison Liang
  • Category:
    Child Slavery, Forced Marriage, Law & Policy
Hero Banner

A woman who was forced to marry her rapist when she was just 11 years old has now inspired the Florida Senate to pass a ban on child marriage in the state.

Sherry Johnson, 58, sat in the gallery of the legislature while senators shared her story and thanked her for pushing the bill forward. Johnson was raped by a church deacon when she was 9 years old, giving birth at 10. She was forced to marry him when she was 11 after her church pressured her mother to consent, a move that allowed a judge to approve the marriage.

TIME reports that the new law will prevent both forced child marriage and cases where children are forced to marry their rapists:

Florida doesn’t allow anyone under the age of 18 to independently consent to marriage. Children aged 16 and 17 can marry with the consent of both children’s parents. But if there’s a pregnancy involved, there is no minimum age for marriage as long as a judge approves the marriage license.

Between 2010 and 2016, 3,161 children — 72 of them under the age of 16 — were married in Florida, according to state Department of Health statistics. At least one child was married in every one of Florida’s 67 counties and in some cases the spouse was at least twice the minor’s age.

Bill supporters say current law essentially lets child rapists use marriage to go unpunished.

Johnson said the senate’s approval of the bill helps heal the pain. “To be able to talk about it, to know that there’s something that’s being done about it … it makes my heart happy. I smile from within to know that children will not have to face what I’ve been through,” she said.

A companion House bill has its final committee stop on Thursday. If approved, it will be ready for a vote by the full chamber.

Freedom United is interested in hearing from our community and welcomes relevant, informed comments, advice, and insights that advance the conversation around our campaigns and advocacy. We value inclusivity and respect within our community. To be approved, your comments should be civil.

stop icon A few things we do not tolerate: comments that promote discrimination, prejudice, racism, or xenophobia, as well as personal attacks or profanity. We screen submissions in order to create a space where the entire Freedom United community feels safe to express and exchange thoughtful opinions.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

This week

Four years on, has Australia's Modern Slavery Act been effective?

An independent review of Australia's Modern Slavery Act has concluded that the legislation is failing to have a significant impact on curbing modern slavery and urges the Australian government to implement recommendations to strengthen the law. The Australian government must act According to the latest Global Slavery Index released by international human rights organization Walk Free, an estimated 50 million people were in situations of modern slavery

| Wednesday May 31, 2023

Read more