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更新时间:2017-5-31 19:07:19 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

11 Years Old, a Mother, and Pushed to Marry Her Rapist in Florida

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.

11岁的某一天,骨瘦如柴的谢丽·约翰逊(Sherry Johnson)发现自己即将嫁给一名曾强奸她的人,这个现年20岁的男人和她在同一个教会。

“It was forced on me,” she recalls. She had become pregnant, she says, and child welfare authorities were investigating — so her family and church officials decided the simplest way to avoid a messy criminal case was to organize a wedding.


“My mom asked me if I wanted to get married, and I said, ‘I don’t know, what is marriage, how do I act like a wife?’” Johnson remembers today, many years later. “She said, ‘Well, I guess you’re just going to get married.’”


So she was. A government clerk in Tampa, Fla., refused to marry an 11-year-old, even though this was legal in the state, so the wedding party went to nearby Pinellas County, where the clerk issued a marriage license. The license (which I’ve examined) lists her birth date, so officials were aware of her age.


Not surprisingly, the marriage didn’t work out — two-thirds of marriages of underage girls don’t last, one study found — but it did interrupt Johnson’s attendance at elementary school. Today she is campaigning for a state law to curb underage marriages, part of a nationwide movement to end child marriage in America. Meanwhile, children 16 and under are still being married in Florida at a rate of one every few days.


You’re thinking: “Child marriage? That’s what happens in Bangladesh or Tanzania, not America!”


In fact, more than 167,000 young people age 17 and under married in 38 states between 2000 and 2010, according to a search of available marriage license data by a group called Unchained at Last, which aims to ban child marriage. The search turned up cases of 12-year-old girls married in Alaska, Louisiana and South Carolina, while other states simply had categories of “14 and younger.”

根据一个名为“终于挣脱枷锁”(Unchained at Last)的组织对可查询的婚姻登记数据进行的调查,从2000年至2010年,在38个州有逾16.7万17岁及以下的孩子登记结婚。该组织旨在禁止儿童婚姻。这项调查发现在阿拉斯加州、路易斯安那州和南卡罗来纳州出现过12岁女孩结婚的案例,而其他州只有“14岁及以下”这个类别。

Unchained at Last was not able to get data for the other states. But it extrapolated that in the entire country, there were almost 250,000 child marriages between 2000 and 2010. Some backing for that estimate comes from the U.S. Census Bureau, which says that at least 57,800 Americans age 15 to 17 reported being in marriages in 2014.

“终于挣脱枷锁”组织未能获得其余那些州的数据。但据它估计,从2000年至2010年,整个美国登记了约25万例儿童婚姻。这项估算的一个根据来自美国人口调查局(U.S. Census Bureau),该局称,2014年,至少有57800名15至17岁的美国人登记结婚。

Among the states with the highest rates of child marriages were Arkansas, Idaho and Kentucky. The number of child marriages has been falling, but every state in America still allows underage girls to marry, typically with the consent of parents, a judge or both. Twenty-seven states do not even set a minimum age by statute, according to the Tahirih Justice Center’s Forced Marriage Initiative.

儿童婚姻比率最高的州包括阿肯色州、爱达荷州和肯塔基州。儿童婚姻的数量在下降,但美国所有的州依然允许未成年女孩结婚,大多是在父母、法官或两者都同意的情况下。据塔希莉法律服务中心(Tahirih Justice Center)的“反强制婚姻行动”(Forced Marriage Initiative)称,有27个州甚至没有规定法定最低结婚年龄。

A great majority of the child marriages involve girls and adult men. Such a sexual relationship would often violate statutory rape laws, but marriage sometimes makes it legal.


In New Hampshire, a girl scout named Cassandra Levesque learned that girls in her state could marry at 13. So she set out to change the law.

在新罕布什尔州,一个名叫卡桑德拉·莱韦斯克(Cassandra Levesque)的女童子军得知在自己的州,女孩13岁就可以结婚。因此,她开始争取改变这项法律。

A legislator sponsored Cassandra’s bill to raise the age to 18, and researchers found that two 15-year-olds had recently married in New Hampshire, along with one 13-year-old. But politicians resisted the initiative.


“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. In March the Republican-led House voted to kill the bill, leaving the minimum age at 13. (Legislators seem willing to marry off girls like Cassandra, but not to listen to them!)

“我们在要求立法机构废除一项已经存在100多年且不曾遭遇障碍的法律,而这是应一名未成年的女童子军的要求,”州议员戴维·贝茨(David Bates)嘲笑道。今年3月,共和党占主导的众议院曾投票否决该议案,令最低年龄限制停留在13岁(议员们似乎愿意把卡桑德拉这样的女孩嫁出去,却不愿倾听她们的想法!)。

New Jersey lawmakers passed a bill that would make their state the first in the country to ban marriages of people under 18, but Gov. Chris Christie this month blocked the legislation. New York legislators are considering a bill backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to raise the age to 17, from the current minimum, 14.

新泽西议员通过了一项法案,原本会使他们的州成为美国首个禁止18岁以下的人结婚的州,但州长克里斯·克里斯蒂(Chris Christie)本月否决了这项法案。纽约州议员在考虑一项由州长安德鲁·库默(Andrew Cuomo)支持的议案,将该州的最低年龄限制由现在的14岁提高到17岁。

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


Globally, a girl marries before the age of 15 every seven seconds, according to estimates by Save the Children. As in Africa and Asia, the reasons for such marriages in the U.S. are often cultural or religious; the American families follow conservative Christian, Muslim or Jewish traditions, and judges sometimes feel that they shouldn’t intrude on other cultures.

据救助儿童会(Save the Children)估计,每7秒钟全世界就有一名不到15岁的女孩结婚。就像在非洲和亚洲一样,美国出现这类婚姻往往也是出于文化或宗教原因;美国家庭遵循保守的基督教、伊斯兰教或犹太教传统,法官们有时感觉自己不该干涉其他文化。

Johnson, the former 11-year-old unwitting bride who is now fighting for Florida to set a minimum marriage age (there is none now), says that her family attended a conservative Pentecostal church and that other girls of a similar age periodically also married. Often, she says, this was to hide rapes by church elders.


She says she was raped by both a minister and a parishioner and gave birth to a daughter when she was just 10 (the birth certificate confirms that). A judge approved the marriage to end the rape investigation, she says, telling her, “What we want is for you to get married.”


“It was a terrible life,” Johnson recalls, recounting her years as a child raising children. She missed school and remembers spending her days changing diapers, arguing with her husband and struggling to pay expenses. She ended up with pregnancy after pregnancy — nine children in all — while her husband periodically abandoned her.


“They took the handcuffs from handcuffing him,” she says, referring to the risk he faced of arrest for rape, “to handcuffing me, by marrying me without me knowing what I was doing.”


“You can’t get a job, you can’t get a car, you can’t get a license, you can’t sign a lease,” she adds, “so why allow someone to marry when they’re still so young?”


Those are precisely the reasons marriages for even 17-year-olds are problematic, according to Fraidy Reiss, who founded Unchained at Last to fight forced marriage and child marriage. Bullied by their parents into marriage, she says, girls may feel powerless to object — and fearful of telling a judge that they don’t want to wed. If they try to flee an abusive marriage, they are turned away from shelters and may be treated as simple runaways.

创办了抵制强迫婚姻和儿童婚姻的“终于挣脱链锁”(Unchained at Last)组织的弗雷迪·里斯(Fraidy Reiss)表示,这就是为什么让未成年人结婚是有问题的,就算17岁也是一样。她表示,在父母的胁迫下结婚的女孩会感觉无力反抗,也不敢告诉法官她们不想结婚。如果试图逃离受虐待的婚姻,她们可能会被当成离家出走的人,不被庇护机构接纳。

Some judges and clerks intervene on behalf of young girls; others do not. Reiss says one clerk told a 16-year-old bride: “Don’t cry. This is supposed to be the happiest day of your life.”


“For almost all of them,” says Reiss, “marriage means rape on their wedding night and thereafter.” Reiss, now 42, says she was forced into a marriage at age 19 by her ultra-Orthodox Jewish family.


Lyndsy Duet, now a school counselor in Texas, told me that she was forced into a marriage at 17 after enduring a series of rapes beginning when she was 14, by a young man her conservative Christian family had taken into the house. Confused, shamed and helpless, she didn’t speak up — but her rapist did.

现在得克萨斯州一所学校担任辅导员的林德西·迪埃(Lyndsy Duet)告诉我,她从14岁开始多次遭到她保守的基督教家庭带回家的一名年轻男子的强暴,17岁的时候被迫与之结婚。她感到困惑、耻辱而又无助,不敢大声地说出来——但强奸她的人却开了口。

“He asked my parents if he could marry me,” Duet remembers. “My mom was crying, she was so happy.”


Duet felt powerless to resist her parents’ pressure — and it was eight years before she could flee what she says was a violent marriage. Once, she says, her husband threatened her with a chain saw, and it was only when she went to college on her own and proved a brilliant student (she graduated first in her class) that she was able to escape.


“Most girls who reach out to us love their families,” Reiss says, “and their primary concern is that they don’t want their families to get into trouble.”


The United States has denounced child marriage in other countries as a “human rights abuse that contributes to economic hardship,” in the words of a State Department document published last year.


Let’s listen to ourselves. State legislators must understand that child marriage is devastating in Niger and Afghanistan — and also in New York and Florida. It’s past time to end child marriage right here at home.