When she was 11 years old, Jazell was forced to live alone with an older man almost forty years of age. She was treated like a “wife,” living in the house with him, cooking, cleaning and constantly being sexually abused. She became pregnant at 14 and had a baby. Her father approved of it and the community seemed to ignore it or consented to it by looking the other way.
Rosita was also 11 years old. A 45-year old man in another country also had the same urge and desire to have an 11-year old sexual partner. But to make it legitimate, he paid a dowry to the mother and father of Rosita and a piece of paper confirmed it was a “marriage arrangement” according to socio-cultural milieu and religious custom. Girls in that country have an economic value as “child brides.” Rosita was taken away and sexually abused daily. She became pregnant at 14 years old and had a baby.
The first case is clearly pedophilia and charges were filed. The second case is not. Do you agree?
According to UNICEF, as many as 700 million women alive today were treated like Rosita when they were young. They were sexually used by men many years older than them. Many were as young as 11. They were called “child brides.” The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child declared a child to be anyone under 18 years old.
Millions of little girls around the world are forcefully paired with older men when they are 11, 14 or 15 years of age. In other words, so-called “marriage” or “child bride-taking” is just a cover for gross indecent criminal pedophilia. It’s a front to justify child sex and escape the penalty of laws that forbid it. Most of the little girls were then raped in the act of consummation of the so-called marriage. This is one view in regard to child brides; others disagree.
Among women between the ages of 20 and 24 worldwide, one in four are forced into such relationships. It cannot be marriage in the moral sense because clear knowledge, free consent and informed choice have to be present for such a union to be valid. But while laws are in place to forbid child marriages in most developing countries, they are generally ignored and the practice is widespread.
In Bangladesh for example, 71 percent of girls in rural areas are “married off” before they are 18 years old, compared to 54 percent in urban areas. In Bangladesh, the percentage of girls forced into such relationships with older men before the age of 15 years is 18 percent, one of the highest rates in the world. These old men want sex with children, some only nine years old. What are the mentality, sexual urges and condition of these old men but a psychiatric phenomenon and surely a diagnosed mental disorder which is pedophilia.
A piece of paper saying it is “marriage” makes it all legal and right. But it is not all right for the child. The child suffers brutal sex abuse and a loss of childhood, education and a life of human dignity. She is reduced to a sex slave. It seems the male dominated culture and religious mores are created by pedophiles to satisfy their sexual demands and desires. Such cultural and religious practices have to be outlawed and the laws implemented.
In Bangladesh, the new law signed by the President on March 11 forbids the marriage of an adult and a child. But there is a loophole that can still allow adults to marry children. It says an adult–child marriage is forbidden except in “special cases.” The law does not say what those special cases are. So the pedophilia under the guise of a so-called marriage approved by law can still go on.
Poverty is the driving force behind many forced child brides. Poor parents see their girl child as lower than boys and as a commodity because they can sell her for a “dowry.” It is a form of human trafficking. They are seen as chattels, the property of the parents to do as they please. The younger she is, the more she earns for the family. She endures the pain of being deprived of a normal childhood, education, and early separation from her parents and siblings. It is a terrible life. Cultural and religious practices seem to protect the arranged pedophilia.
Some say it is not pedophilia if the man has sex with a nine year old provided it is approved by socio-cultural or religious custom. They say the child marriage phenomenon is driven by socio-cultural forces and economic considerations.
One international NGO says, “One aspect that clearly distinguishes child marriage from pedophilia is that the socio-cultural milieu, where child marriage is practiced, condoned. This is the reason, unlike pedophilia, child marriage is practiced and defended by not only the parents, but also their community and leaders.”
In the Philippines where child abuse and child marriage also happen, only two percent of children are forced into a “marriage union,” called that to justify the pedophilia, apparently at times condoned by the local official. Some NGOs will challenge this practice. It is not widespread yet the live-in relationship or the sex-slave union is common but not called marriage.
The child victim is left helpless and abused by a live-in partner with the consent of the relatives and mother in some cases. He provides money for the family. There is also the “areglo” system of payoffs where some local officials, for a fee, arrange a financial compensation between the sexual abuser and the parents of the child. No legal complaint is filed and he gets away with the abuse and the community remains silent and condones it.
Just a few brave people will report child sexual abuse, a common community crime. As many as one in three girls as young as eight years old are victims of sexual abuse. Many such victims have been brought to the Preda child therapeutic care center. So what is the difference between pedophilia when the same sexual abuse is covered by a so-called marriage paper?
Margaret Capelazo, CARE Canada’s gender equality adviser, says “there are absolutely no links between child, early and forced marriage and pedophilia.” She contends that child marriage “is caused by social rules and biases that devalue girls, and related social and economic pressure. Pedophilia is a psychiatric phenomenon and a diagnosed mental disorder.”
With all due respect to Margaret, an older man entering into a sex union with an 11-year-old child commits pedophilia. The marriage is a front, a cultural arrangement made by men to have their way and pleasure by sexually abusing children without being punished. To save children from such grave sexual abuse, we have to campaign against child brides and expose the practice of taking young brides for what it is – legalized, economic, socio-cultural pedophilia.