Among the states with the highest rates of child marriages were Arkansas, Idaho and Kentucky.
.. 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.
.. “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
.. Legislators seem willing to marry off girls like Cassandra, but not to listen to them!
.. 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.”
.. he ended up with pregnancy after pregnancy — nine children in all — while her husband periodically abandoned her.
.. “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?”
.. If they try to flee an abusive marriage, they are turned away from shelters and may be treated as simple runaways.
GROSS: If I asked you to make a list of the five most important issues for women today, what would be on that list?
STEINEM: Well, I can do it. But I would like to say that the most important issues are those to the women who are listening. I mean, it’s not about dictating to each other what’s important but supporting each other and solving the ones that are in our daily lives.
GROSS: I like that point that you just made (laughter).
STEINEM: However, if you add up, you know, in terms of the numbers of people, I would say that competing for No. 1 would be violence against females worldwide. If you add up all the forms of violence, whether it’s domestic violence in this country, which is at an enormously high rate – I mean, the most dangerous place for a woman in this country is her own home. And she’s most likely to be beaten or killed by some – by a man she knows. Or it is FGM – female genital mutilation – or it is female infanticide or honor killings or child marriage and too-early childbirth, which is a major cause of death among adolescent girls worldwide. So, you know, violence has reached an emergency – well, it’s – I mean, any violence is an emergency. But, you know, collectively…
GROSS: What – well, the sense of emergency has certainly increased with groups like the Taliban and ISIS…
STEINEM: Yes, yes.
GROSS: Truly attacking women and denying them any form of rights.
STEINEM: Yes. No, it’s the extreme forms of patriarchy, often religious – so-called religious – and the violence against females in warzones – sexualized violence in the Congo and, you know, many in the former Yugoslavia. You know, and all of these have mounted up to a real emergency. But tied, I would say, for first place is the ability of women to decide when and whether to have children because that is a major cause of death. The lack of that ability is a major cause of death. And it is also a major cause of inability to be educated or to be free outside the home or to be healthy. You know, so I would say those two concerns, violence – sexualized violence against women and reproductive freedom or reproductive justice are right up there in our focus in every country.