Despite nearly every U.S. state having laws banning children under the age of 18 from marrying, child marriage remains legal in 25 states through exemptions granted with judicial consent or parental permission, according to the Pew Research Center. A new BBC documentary, America First, examines the case of a former child bride in Idaho, who was forced by her mother to get married when she was just 13.
“I was just a little girl who wanted to have a boyfriend but my mom turned it into something way different,” recalled Angel, now 26. “When I got married I had just turned 13. We stood in my living room and in this ugly dress that my mother bought from the internet. Shortly after getting married, she encouraged us to start having kids and that’s why I had my first son at 15. It was a way for me to be dependent on her.”
Angel, who has five children, now has a new husband. But at the time, she admitted, she felt like his “slave.”
“My ex was extremely abusive to me and I was very confused because this was the only guy I have ever been with. So when he started shoving me and all that stuff while I was pregnant, I thought, this was my life … I was a slave to my ex. I was a slave to this idea that my mother wanted us to all be together and for me to have kids so young.”
According to the BBC, more than 200,000 children were married in the U.S. between 2000 and 2015 — 87 percent of whom were underage girls.
Another victim of child marriage is profiled in the documentary. Sherry Johnson, a Florida woman, tells the BBC she was forced into marriage at age 11. “I got married to my rapist,” she says. “My mother saw fit for me to marry him to make the situation of me getting pregnant … to make it look better overall,” she says. Her rapist, who became her husband, was 20 years old at the time of the marriage in 1970. By age 16, Johnson says, she had given birth to six children. Showing the camera her wedding photo, while strategically obscuring her rapist’s face with her thumb, Johnson says, “I smiled from the outside, but the inside is crying.”
Today, Johnson is fighting to convince lawmakers in Florida to change the state’s child marriage laws and prevent others girls from enduring a similar fate.
In June, New York banned all child marriage below the age of 17 in the state — overturning laws that had previously allowed children to get married as young as 14 with parental and judicial permission. A similar law in California met resistance in July, as critics claimed that banning child marriage would infringe upon the rights of juveniles.
Watch a clip of America First below.
Read the full story at The Sun.