ADELE BUTLER – Women of Spirit: Child Brides

 

  

Child Brides … 

 

 

When I heard the news report about 12 year old girls from B.C. were being given as brides to polygamists, I was shocked and disgusted.  “They are still children!”  They aren’t even developed fully yet. and what disturbed me the most was that their parents sanctioned this.

Marriage, according to documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court Friday. The girls were “sealed for time and eternity” in religious ceremonies to Warren Jeffs, the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Jeffs was 49 at the time.

The ceremonies took place in the FLDS-controlled twin towns of Colorado City, Ariz. and Hildale, Utah. In one case, both the girl’s mother and father participated in the ceremony. Both girls were subsequently driven by an FLDS official to Texas where the church have a compound called Yearning for Zion ranch.

Read more: A year earlier, the documents say that a 13-year-old Bountiful girl was also taken by her father and mother to Colorado City where she was “celestially married” to Jeffs at a ceremony in James Allred’s home (http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Bountiful+parents+delivered+year+brides+arranged+weddings+with+Warren+Jeffs/4312259/story.html#ixzz

Some people believe that polygamy is acceptable because biblical characters like David and Saul had numerous wives. I personally don’t believe that God sanctions the practice but my concern is the ages of the brides. These girls are being robbed of their childhood. They should be concentrating on their education. Marriage should not even be a factor until they are of age. And the parents should be protecting them not exploiting them. Marriage is supposed to be between two consenting adults not an adult and a child. Since these girls are under the age of sixteen Jeffs would be committing statutory rape. As a prophet he should have predicted that he would end up in jail awaiting trial on two counts of sexual assault of minors and one count of bigamy. I hope that he will be found guilty and that the punishment he receives will fit the crimes. As for the girls’ parents, they too should be charged. What they did in the name of religion was criminal and should be punished.

Child marriages in Yemen is a common practice that needs to be banned. I read of the tragic case of a 12 year old bride who died while giving birth to a stillborn. She was in labor for three days and died from heavy bleeding. Child marriages are widespread in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, where tribal customs dominate society. More than a quarter of the country’s females marry before age 15, according to a recent report by the Social Affairs Ministry.

Yousuf was only 11 when her father married her to a 24-year-old man who works as a farmer in Saudi Arabia, Ahmad Al Quraishi, chairman of Siyaj human rights organization, said on Saturday. “This is one of many cases that exist in Yemen,” said Al Quraishi. “The reason behind it is the lack of education and awareness, forcing many girls into marriage in this very early age.”

Impoverished parents in Yemen sometimes give away their young daughters in return for hefty dowries. There is also a long-standing tribal custom in which infant daughters and sons are promised to cousins in hopes it will protect them from illicit relationships, he said.
(
http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/yemen/yemeni-12-year-old-dies-while-giving-birth-to-a-stillborn-1.539240). I wonder how her father feels. Two innocent lives were lost because of a barbaric practice. Measures need to be taken to stop these marriages so that more girls will not have the same fate as Yousuf.

On a more positive note, I read about the courageous 12 year old Saudi Arabian girl who successfully won a divorce from her 80 year old husband. Her case could prompt the Arab kingdom to introduce a minimum marriage age, the Telegraph of London reports.

The girl was 11 when she was wed against her wishes to her father’s cousin last year in an arranged marriage in her hometown of Buraidah, near the Saudi capital of Riyadh, the Telegraph reported Thursday. Her father was paid a $23,350 dowry.

The girl, with the help of a lawyer from the state-run Human Rights Commission, has been trying to get out of the marriage and took her case to court in Buraidah. She recently reached an agreement with her family, and the divorce will be settled privately rather than in the courts, the Telegraph reported.

Saudi Arabia has no minimum legal age for marriage and it is common in poorer, tribal areas for girls to be married off. However, it is rare for a child bride to challenge the match.

The case has prompted the Human Rights Commission to call for a legal minimum age of 16 in the kingdom. The commission and the Ministry of Justice will issue new guidelines after hearing from medical experts, child psychologists and scholars of Islamic law (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/36717454/). 16 is still too young but this is a victory for the younger girls of Saudi Arabia.

Child marriages need to become illegal and anyone caught trying to arrange such marriages should be punished. Also there needs to be more education and awareness about the dangers of such arrangements. Marriage is for adults not children. Children need to be children. Don’t rob them of their innocence. Don’t force them to grow up before they are ready. Please stop this insanity. Write letters, sign petitions, speak out, protest, do whatever you can to save young girls from being forced into arranged marriages. We need more victories like the one in Saudi Arabia where one little girl stood up for her freedom and rights and challenged her match. Now she is free.

 

Adele Butler, A Celebration of Women 2011.

 

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