Child Brides- A Cover for Cultural Pedophilia?
Fr. Shay Cullen
24 March 2017
Since she was 11 years old, Jazell was forced to live alone with an older man of almost forty years of age. She was treated as if she was his ‘wife,’ living in the house with him, cooking, cleaning and constantly being sexually abused. She became pregnant at 14 like a normal wife and had a baby. Her father approved it and the community seemed to ignore it or consented to it by looking the other way.
Rosita was also 11 years old. The 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 are devalued and have an economic value as a “child bride.” She was taken away and sexually used daily and 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 700 million women alive today when they were young girls were treated like Rosita. They were sexually used by older male adults many years older than them. Many were as young as 11 years old. They were called “child brides.” The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child has 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 were as young as 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 to 24 worldwide, one in four are forced into such relationships as a child bride. 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” before they are 18 years old compared to 54 percent in urban areas. The percentage of girls forced into such relationships in Bangladesh for example 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 is 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 the sex slave status of young girls in many developing countries. 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 last 11 March 2017 forbids marriage of adults and children. But there is a built in loophole that will still allow adults to marry children. It says 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 so-called marriage by approved laws can still go on.
Poverty is the driving force behind many forced child brides. Poor parents see their girl child as of lower status than boys and an economic benefit if they can sell her a “dowry” in so-called ‘marriage.’ It is income and the child is actually sold, it’s a form of human trafficking. They are seen as chattels, the property of the parents to do as they please even sold. The younger she is the more she earns for the family. The pain of being deprived a normal childhood, education, separated from their parents, their brothers and sisters, and made work. It is a terrible life experience of abuse. Cultural and religious practice it seems is designed to be a front 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, condones, and in many cases, perpetuates the practice . . . 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 is strictly enforced, 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 it is custom for some local officials, for a fee, to arrange a financial compensation between the child 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 where in fact it is a common community crime and 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, it appears older men entering into a sex union with an 11 year old child is more like pedophilia than “marriage.” The marriage is a front, a cultural arrangement made by men to have their way and pleasure by sexually abusing children without the penalty of the law. To save children from such grave sexual abuse, we have to campaign against child brides and expose it for what it is- legalized, economic, socio-cultural pedophilia.