Florida has banned marriage for children under 17, following a campaign by a woman who was forced to marry her rapist when she was only 11-years-old.
Sherry Johnson watched in awe as the state legislature voted 109-1 to pass the bill.
Republican Governor, Rick Scott, said he will sign the new bill after the House and Senate ‘reached a compromise’ on its terms.
As it stands, Florida allows children of all ages to marry if a pregnancy is involved and a judge approves.
But with the new bill, marriage for anyone below 17 will be a thing of the past.
Sherry Johnson was nine when she was raped by a church deacon. After giving birth at at just 10-years-old, she later married him aged 11.
She claimed the church pressured her mum to consent to a marriage. A judge later approved it and Sherry gave birth to a further five children before leaving her husband.
She told CBS News:
My heart is happy. My goal was to protect our children and I feel like my mission has been accomplished. This is not about me. I survived.
I feel the whole system failed me. I would have been a single mother and I think I would have done well.
Child marriage is still prevalent in the United States, and its history is deep rooted.
As per the Conversation:
Child marriage has long been portrayed as an issue in the developing world – especially in India and various nations in Africa and the Middle East. Americans are often surprised by its persistence right here at home. Many assume that it was a practice brought to the United States by immigrant populations, or one used in isolationist religious sects. Neither belief is borne out by the numbers.
Even at the height of immigration to the United States in the 1910s and 1920s, U.S.-born white children of U.S.-born parents were more likely to be married as minors than were immigrant girls of the first or second generation. U.S.-born black girls were about one-and-a-half times more likely to be married than were white girls. In both cases, poor girls in rural states accounted for the numbers.
What a great moment for Sherry.