Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lolita Syndrome

In Saudi Arabia, a ten year old girl has been married off to an 80-year old man while in Somalia, a man claiming to 117 married a 17 year old (so much for sugar daddy – now we’ve got saccharine grand-dads). Earlier this year, the media hype and intense criticism of a Saudi court’s decision to recognise a marriage of an 8 year old to a 50-something year old, soon led the husband to divorce her. All these men claim the marriages to be Sharia-compliant.

Saudi Human Rights Commission member Ma'touq Al-'Abdallah stated that while the country had not explicitly outlawed marriages with child brides, a report issued in February 2009 by the Saudi Health Ministry concluded that such marriages were detrimental to the minor's emotional and physical health, and harmful to society at large.

Child brides are not isolated to Islamic societies. Often there’s a direct link between poverty and the forced marriages of children, (which usually happen for a sizeable dowry). In some rural societies, girls are married off from the ages of 7 to 11. 16 year olds are considered too old; even though national laws exist which stipulate the legal age for marriage to be 16 or 18, they are contravened by local communities.

Girls who have been married off at such young ages are found to suffer serious psychological and physical effects. Those who bear children at a young age suffer from difficult pregnancies and births, and even death. These girls are also deprived of formal education, limiting their abilities to fend for themselves. They age quicker and die younger (this is a far cry from the romantisisation of death during pregnancy as a matyrdom)

The cases cited above are of extreme and ridiculous age gaps and gain wide criticism in the West – and rightly so - however they serve more as a fuel for the creation of negative perceptions of societies in the developing world. But this begs the question of child and teenage sexuality in the USA and other western / liberal democracies. A study conducted in the US showed that secret, illegal, teenage marriages were on the rise in America since the 1990s. Children are increasingly sexually active at younger ages. Promiscuity has increased the rates of sexually transmitted infections and the easy access to abortion clinics has resulted in some women reaching adulthood having had up to four abortions. Christian right-wingers have argued that sex-education has contributed to the rise in promiscuity of the younger generation.

There is also no shortage of superb role models in the mass media, with ratings for shows like Gossip Girl going through the roof. Sex is seen as just another hobby and something fun, without consequences, without responsibility and with quick fix solutions to problems that may arise.

So in a world where at age 12 you may not ride in an elevator alone but can give consent to have an abortion maybe teenage marriage isn’t such a bad thing afterall.


Sid said...

Oooh ... very controversial topic. And I'm not sure I agree with your last statement AT ALL. Yes, promiscuity might be on the rise BUT how many of these teenagers were forced into sleeping with their boyfriends. How many of their boyfriends are 80 year olds?

shabz said...

a very interesting perspective as usual DD, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Strange that u raise this very controversial polemic during the 16 days of no violence against women, one the one hand child brides face fistulas,cervical ruptures and death by sex and on the other sexual promiscuity and freaked out teens unable to cope with the balance between bodily impulses and emotional and moral responsibility. Both pictures distort sex and degrade women.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Sid on this!

When I was 8, my biggest problem was learning the multiplication table not decking a table for husband!!!

With freedom comes responsibility. With choice is the possibility of making a mistake.

Having the freedom to make that choice; a right.

desert demons said...

sid and anon 2 - ever heard of devil's advocate? the statement was meant to be controversial and provocative. I like to incite discussion that way! I may not necessarily agree with it.