They took the handcuffs from him and handcuffed me
May 27, 2017 10:39 AM   Subscribe

When she was a scrawny 11-year-old, Sherry Johnson found out one day that she was about to be married to a 20-year-old member of her church who had raped her.

In New Hampshire this March, the Republican-led house voted to kill a bill which would have raised the minimum age of marriage from 13 to 18. Earlier this month, NJ Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have raised the marriage age from 14 to 18. From Unchained at Last: bills to end or limit child marriage are pending in California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Texas and Pennsylvania.

Previously on Metafilter: America's Child Marriage Problem
posted by galaxy rise (26 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
“We’re asking the Legislature to repeal a law that’s been on the books for over a century, that’s been working without difficulty, on the basis of a request from a minor doing a Girl Scout project,” scoffed one state representative, David Bates.

Wow.
posted by queensissy at 10:44 AM on May 27, 2017 [22 favorites]


I just read that article before you posted and was astounded. Sorry, but that is yet an example of how there is a third world country openly hidden inside the USA. I can't think of any excuse for this happening.
posted by mumimor at 10:44 AM on May 27, 2017 [24 favorites]


Opponents worry that raising the age will lead to out-of-wedlock births, and they note that many underage marriages are consensual.

Because "out-of-wedlock births" are way worse than raping children and because children can consent to marriage (and the sex that will be forced upon them with it) even though they can't consent to sex.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:53 AM on May 27, 2017 [67 favorites]


I am trying to figure out how anyone who has ever met a 13-year-old thinks that any 13-year-old should be getting married. I mean, I know: misogyny; slut-shaming; viewing girls as property to be exchanged rather than people with rights and independent desires. But fuck. that. shit. And seriously: if you are meant to be with someone for the rest of your life, you can wait until you're 18 to get married.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:04 AM on May 27, 2017 [27 favorites]


Bah humbug

hypocrites ready to raise NGOs when it comes the poor brown or black girl child
posted by infini at 11:08 AM on May 27, 2017


I feel dirty now, and I just live here.

So I assume every person that supports underage marriage also supports lowering the age of consent to match? That seems the only logical conclusion of supporting the belief that a child is capable of consent for marriage. If a child's mature enough to consent to marriage, surely they're mature enough to consent to sex with an adult too?

Do they not see the contradiction here? No one in their right mind feels an eleven year old child is mature enough to consent to sex with an adult. Why is marriage different? The mind reels. To hell with the religious argument; the Old Testament allows for all sorts of behaviors we've since banned as barbaric.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 11:21 AM on May 27, 2017 [8 favorites]


I grew up in the "old enough to kill, but not to vote" era, turning 21 years old just after my second tour in Vietnam. The law change around that time, and it allowed 18 y/o's the right to drink liquor, vote for whomever, as well as kill whomever (under certain circumstances). I mention this to show that everything has a heavily contextual load of circumstances.

We draw the line of agency arbitrarily. The disconnect between adult and child marriages has never been seriously applied to law. How can a minor enter into a marriage contract? It's a legal paradox. But minors can be given legal agency by a court, enabling some teens to make contracts and so on.

I'm not qualified to suggest a lower age that determines when a teen should be regarded as an adult. I suspect there's something about this sort of arbitrary analysis that makes it fundamentally unworkable. Even so, if a teen who hasn't achieved majority wishes to marry, maybe the very least that should happen is that this person be given legal agency, and the opportunity to refuse the contract. Even this pitiful sop can't overcome the social construct that would put her, or sometimes him, in this awful situation.

Simple outrage isn't useful, because we have to pit "our" mores against "theirs," and that's how this sort of shit gets to be unworkable in the first place. But simple outrage can fuel a body of protest. The trick is in discovering the legal grammar that covers the ground.
posted by mule98J at 11:22 AM on May 27, 2017 [5 favorites]


No one in their right mind feels an eleven year old child is mature enough to consent to sex with an adult.

There's only a wink and a nod toward the child consenting. The girl's family (and in the cases when the child is so young it's always a girl, isn't it?) is making the decision, because they regard their daughter as less than a full human being with full human potential to one day make her own decisions.
posted by BrashTech at 12:35 PM on May 27, 2017 [19 favorites]


What the fuck is wrong with us?
posted by allthinky at 1:11 PM on May 27, 2017 [5 favorites]


Breitbart has an article complaining how their dear friends Saudi Arabia allow this barbaric practice.

http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2014/12/26/saudi-arabia-grand-mufti-nothing-wrong-with-child-brides/

100 billion was it or just milliion?
posted by infini at 1:20 PM on May 27, 2017 [6 favorites]


People who support forced marriage like this also believe that premarital sex will blow your legs off, is the girl's fault, and of course there must be consequences for her ungodly sluttery, so they find it consistent.

Meanwhile, fine Christian men endorse this practice.
posted by delfin at 2:11 PM on May 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


Really seems like so much of politics is a fight between the late-breeding, few-kids, high-investment reproductive strategy and the early-breeding, many-kids, low-investment one... with this change obviously fitting, but rather toothless in the overall fight as practice of the latter strategy tends towards neglecting formal marriage or even stable pairing these days...

Meanwhile, on the high end - of the rulers at the G7 meeting, only Trump and Trudeau have any children.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 3:07 PM on May 27, 2017 [8 favorites]


Had you told me this was the case an hour ago you could have won a large stack of cash off of me.
posted by Cosine at 4:47 PM on May 27, 2017 [5 favorites]


Gotta admit, 11-years-old is early breedin'. (WTF)

Jesus, what is wrong with people. Low-age-of-marriage laws exist to give men an out when they rape kids, with the side benefit of allowing misogynistic religion's followers (where girl-children = dirt) to get rid of their "worthless" kids as soon as they can.

(So, sure, tweens and teens can/will be horny, big whoop, they've got their hands and their peers to scratch those itches...and if they somehow latch onto the idea of boning you, super-hot adult, your job is to turn them down.)

What options does a married 13-year-old even have to get out of that marriage? Does their legal status change to an adult when they're married? Does it magically change back if they make it out before they're otherwise legally an adult? Can two 12-year-olds legally get married without their parent's consent? If not, that's all you need to know. If so, WTF.

I'm voting for Yellowstone Caldera in the mid-terms and Errant Comet in 2020.

There should be one age where you're adult/not adult, and yeah, that's going to seem arbitrary. Voting, drinking, driving, consensual sex with any other adult, marriage, taxes. I think the mix of ages we currently have helps justify insanity like marrying off tweens. (I do think that there's a potential problem with homeless teens who aren't in school--they need some of the legal protections adults get, but at the same time should be protected from predators. It's complicated, like most human endeavors.) I'm OK with occasionally reviewing where the arbitrary adult age is set, but it's not (jesus) 11, or 13 or 15. It's probably not when you're still in high school--I think having a mix of "legal adults" and "legally kids" in the same environment is problematic (which I think is one of the reasons you don't see too many four-year high schools any longer, seniors dating and boning 9th graders is pretty squicky, that's a big age difference when you're a teen).
posted by maxwelton at 5:04 PM on May 27, 2017 [6 favorites]


Same old story. Dems/libs attempting to use rationality to come to terms with a social issue.

Repubs/cons still wanting to use an outdated and failed past to address the same issue.
posted by notreally at 5:29 PM on May 27, 2017 [6 favorites]


What options does a married 13-year-old even have to get out of that marriage? Does their legal status change to an adult when they're married? Does it magically change back if they make it out before they're otherwise legally an adult? Can two 12-year-olds legally get married without their parent's consent? If not, that's all you need to know. If so, WTF.


Pretty much what went through my head. I mean, if you can get married, you would technically be emancipated, right?
posted by Samizdata at 6:43 PM on May 27, 2017


I knew two women who were married at 13, one an American from Tennessee, and the other was a Bengali woman. Her marriage was arranged. In time she grew to love her husband. He was 15 when they were married. They only had one child. A daughter and they did not arrange her marriage. The father was a LOT more forgiving of the daughter's rebellion. I believe the mother would have liked to kill her. Literally the daughter was the only issue they ever fought over.
The American I knew who was married at 13 was different. I never knew why it was she was married so young. That marriage ended in divorce. She had a kid or so. I don't think they had the same fathers.
I think that it's pretty well understood that girls should not be bearing children before at least age 17. The bone structure isn't ready before that age. It's even LESS ready if a girl has not had a decent diet growing up. Age of consent for girls always has been lower than for boys. Part of that is girls are more mature than boys. Girls were roughly 2 years ahead was what people used to say when I was growing up.
Now age of consent isn't only about physical readiness to have children safely, It's also economic readiness. If you can't hold a job it's a disaster to have children whether you are male or female. These days even 2 incomes may not be sufficient for survival.
So starting a family really young will ruin the lives of all concerned.
It strikes me that the provision for people being married very young is indeed an way to cover up rape. It should not be happening.
One more thing, some girls marry young to get away from abusive families. I knew a couple of girls who eloped for that reason at 15 or 16. I'm not sure it improved matters for them at all.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:19 PM on May 27, 2017 [4 favorites]


And here I thought I knew everything about America's various idiocies, Jesus, the age of marriage is 13? Here it's 18, although an exception exists for 16 year olds (the age of consent) if you get a court order.

(Although the pedant in me wants to point out that America can never be described as 'the third world'; it's a geopolitical metaphor, not a sociopolitical metaphor. The Second World was the USSR and her allies, which is why you never hear of the Second World any more. America would properly be described as a developing nation, or a failed state. I mean, you've got the leaders for it.)
posted by Merus at 1:40 AM on May 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


And here I thought I knew everything about America's various idiocies, Jesus, the age of marriage is 13? Here it's 18, although an exception exists for 16 year olds (the age of consent) if you get a court order.

Age of marriage in the US is a matter of state law, not federal law, so it varies from state to state. In all states the general age of marriage in the United States is 18, except for Nebraska where it is 19 and Mississippi where it is 21. However, most states have a mechanism by which younger individuals can marry, usually involving parental consent, judicial consent, or both. Wikipedia has a summary and Cornell Law School has a more detailed table.
posted by RichardP at 3:00 AM on May 28, 2017 [3 favorites]


Isn't marriage a contract of sorts? If you're too young to sign a legal contract, how then can you marry?
posted by jfwlucy at 4:12 AM on May 28, 2017 [1 favorite]


Sherry Johnson wrote a novel about her experiences, too.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:19 PM on May 28, 2017


“We’re asking the Legislature to repeal a law that’s been on the books for over a century, that’s been working without difficulty, on the basis of a request from a minor doing a Girl Scout project,” scoffed one state representative, David Bates.

This man is a monster.
posted by Toddles at 4:14 PM on May 28, 2017 [9 favorites]


“We’re asking the Legislature to repeal a law that’s been on the books for over a century, that’s been working without difficulty, on the basis of a request from a minor doing a Girl Scout project,” scoffed one state representative, David Bates.

So much stuff like flies under the radar. I read about this in the NY Times, three months after the vote and much too late to react. Why wasn't this guy thrown under and bus and ridiculed and mocked and branded as a monster?

We're reading about this weeks later, after the vote. I want to help fund a billboard that says "look at this monster." Show a picture of an 11-year-old Girl Scout and a pregnant 11-year-old.
posted by shoesietart at 4:44 PM on May 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


I read this and just felt like it was a giant flashing neon sign saying "girls are still property." The idea that someone too young to give legal consent to sex can enter into an institutionalized sexual relationship with parental consent is just -- yeah. These people think their children belong to them not in the way that I think my children "belong" to me, but in the literal sense.

And that asshole Bates guy. How do you not see the contradiction? You're mocking a little girl's activism because -- she's just a little girl? DO YOU HEAR YOURSELF TALKING, SIR??
posted by gerstle at 4:52 PM on May 28, 2017 [9 favorites]


Good Lord, I have a 13 and 14 year old in the house right now, and I can't get either of them to do chores without dire threats. These are not humans capable of adulting in any of its tedious forms.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 6:16 PM on May 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


I really hope that when David Bates runs for reelection, his opponent sends out flyers about the fact that he supports the rape of girls. Hell, if anyone wants me to do push polls on this issue, just ask. I will happily tell his constituents that he wants little girls raped because he doesn't like girl scouts.
posted by Hactar at 5:37 AM on May 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


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