Eliminate Forced Child Marriage in the United States

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Sherry Johnson was a scrawny girl who loved going to school and reading. However, the 11 year old Tampa, Florida resident was not playing with dolls, walking to the park, or obsessing over One Direction’s extended absence like other girls her age. Instead Sherry was getting married. Sherry had been raped by a 20 year old man from her church, The New York Times reported on May 26, 2017. To avoid investigation by the child welfare officers involved in Sherry’s case, her family forced her to marry her rapist.  

Shockingly, Sherry's forced marriage was not illegal, the state had absolutely zero laws against this arcane practice. Florida is not alone. The Pew Research Center finds that Alaska, Oregon, Kansas, and many others have not passed any laws limiting forced child marriage.   The fact that this practice continues to occur in the U.S. is absolutely appalling and it must be abolished.

As the Independent wrote on July 8, 2017  200,000 American minors were forced into marriages in the past 15 years alone. That averages out to 37 children a day. 37 children. Young, innocent, impressionable. Underage girls who are forced to get married have a 23 percent higher risk of diseases such as heart attack, diabetes, cancer and stroke. The risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases also increases significantly as does the likelihood of developing mental disorders. No one has a right to force children to face these debilitations.   

 In order to solve this human rights and public health crisis,there must be legislation both prohibiting marriage before 18, and eliminating  parental consent as a possibility for minors. The law must specify that parents cannot consent under 18 no matter what the state law says, or else the problem will remain. In doing this, Congress must pass a law banning child marriage in the entirety of the United States. 



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