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Bill to Ban Child Marriage in Florida Passes First Committee

October 24th, 2017 by Jake Stofan
Florida has one of the loosest child Marriage laws in the nation.
Each year 1,000 people under the age of 18 are married in the state.
After abuses, lawmakers are looking to put an end to the practice once and for all.
Over the last 15 years 200,000 Americans under the age of 18 have been wed… 1,000 more are married in state of Florida each year.
Florida’s lax marriage laws are to blame, allowing children of any age to be wed if a pregnancy is involved.
It’s how Sherry Johnson Ended up being forced to marry her rapist at the young age of 11.
“To live that life was catastrophically a turmoil for me and it’s been a turmoil for a long time,” said Johnson.
Jeanne Smoot with the Tahirih Justice Center says in a six year period more than 400 children were married to a spouse who’s age difference would make sexual relations between the two statutory rape.
The age differences often lead to sexual abuse and domestic violence.
“Early marriage compounds a girl’s dependency and vulnerability and can make her insecure through the rest of her life,” said Smoot.
After a failed attempt at changing the law in 2013 the idea of tightening that state’s marriage  law is once again on the table.
New legislation seeks to outlaw any marriage for an individual younger than 18.
“Because there has been such abuse of young men and women to force them into marital situations that are not in their best interest, it is a protective measure for those children who can’t speak up for themselves,” said bill sponsor State Senate Lizbeth Benacquisto.
The proposal would make Florida’s marriage laws the strictest in the nation.
Sherry says if the law passes it would protect young girls like her, allowing them to live out the childhood she never was allowed to have.

“Being married at 11 caused me to repeat the same cycle over and over again until I  understood what was actually happening in my life,” said Johnson.

Between 2010 and 2016, 12 children in Florida under the age of 18 were married to men more than twice their age.
The bill passed its first committee stop Tuesday afternoon.

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