Tahmina, 13, was sold by her sister to a man nearly 30 years her senior. Rescued by an anti-trafficking charity, she is one of the lucky ones – but her story is echoed across India, where hundreds of thousands of women and girls are forced into sexual and domestic slavery
Pul has travelled 2,000km from her home in Assam, north-east India, to a small government-run shelter in another state where her daughter is waiting. Weeping, she reaches out and clutches 13-year-old Tahmina* to her. She had thought she would never see her again.
Six weeks previously, Tahmina had left her home with her elder sister and brother-in-law. She thought they were going to Delhi. Instead, she was taken to a remote village in Haryana and sold into marriage with a man almost 30 years older than her.
In half of US states, there is no legal minimum age for marriage; a 40-year-old man can, in theory, marry a five-year-old girl. But Florida may soon ban the practice for under-18s. We meet the former child brides campaigning for change
Sherry Johnson was 11 when her mother told her she was going to get married. The bridegroom was nine years older and a deacon in the strict apostolic church that her family attended. He was also the man who had raped her and made her pregnant. “They forced me to marry him to cover up the scandal,” Johnson says. “Instead of putting the handcuffs on him and sending him to prison, they put the handcuffs on me and imprisoned me in a marriage.”
Johnson is now 58, but child marriage is not a thing of the past in the US: almost 250,000 children were married there between 2000 and 2010, some of them as young as 10. “Almost all were girls married to adult men,” says Fraidy Reiss, the director of campaigning organisation Unchained at Last.