CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 23 September 2017

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Child brides just long-standing custom or cultural paedophilia?

Since she was 11-years-old, Jazell has been forced to live with a man around 30 years her senior.
She has been treated as if she is his wife, living in the house with him, cooking, cleaning and constantly being sexually abused.
 
She became pregnant at 14 and, like a normal wife, had a baby. Her father approved and the community seemed to ignore it or consented to it by looking the other way.
 
Rosita was also 11-years-old when a 45-year-old man in another country got the urge to take an 11-year-old sexual partner.
 
But to make it legitimate, he paid a dowry to her mother and father and got a piece of paper confirming it a marriage arrangement according to the socio-cultural milieu and religious custom.
 
Girls in that country are devalued and given an economic value as a child bride. She was taken away and used sexually on a daily basis, becoming pregnant at 14 and then having a baby.
 
The first case is clearly paedophilia and charges were filed. The second case is not. Do you agree?
 
According to UNICEF, as many 700 million women who are still living today were treated like Rosita as young girls. They were sexually used by men many years older than they were.
 
Many were as young as 11 when they were first taken into his home. They were called child brides. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child has declared a child to be anyone under 18.
 
Millions of young girls around the world are forcefully paired with older men when they are between 11- and 15-years-of-age. In other words, the so-called marriage or child bride-taking is just a cover for grossly indecent, criminal paedophilia.
 
It is nothing more than a front to justify child sex and escape the penalty of laws that forbid it. Most of the young girls are 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 has been forced into such a relationship as a child. It cannot be a 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 per cent of girls in rural areas are married before they are 18, compared to 54 per cent in urban areas. The percentage of girls forced into such relationships with older men before the age of 15 years is 18 per cent, one of the highest rates in the world.
 
These older men want sex with children, sometimes only nine-years-of-age. What is the mentality? 
 
The sexual urges and the psychological condition of these older men is but a psychiatric phenomenon and surely could be a diagnosed mental disorder, which is paedophilia.
 
A piece of paper saying it is marriage makes it all legal and clean looking. But it is not alright 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 status of a sex slave. It seems that a male dominated cultures and religious mores are created by paedophiles to satisfy their sexual demands and desires.
 
Such cultural and religious practices have to be outlawed and the laws enforced.
 
In Bangladesh, a new law signed by the president on March 11 forbids the marriage of adults to children. But there is a built-in loophole that 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 paedophilia under the guise of a so-called marriage by approved laws can still go on.
 
 
Poverty is the driving force behind many child marriages. Poor parents see their girl child as of lower status than boys and of economic benefit if they can sell her for a dowry.
 
It is an income and the child is actually sold. But it is also a form of human trafficking.
 
The young girls are seen as chattels, the property of the parents to do with as they please. The younger she is the more she earns for the family.
 
The pain is being deprived a normal childhood and education, as well as being separated from parents and family, and to made work.
 
It is a terrible life experience of abuse. Cultural and religious practice it seems is designed as a front to protect arranged paedophilia.
 
Some say it is not paedophilia if the man has sex with a nine-year-old, provided it has the approval of socio-cultural or religious custom. 
 
They say the child marriage phenomenon is driven by socio-cultural forces and economic considerations.
 
One international non-government organisation says, “One aspect that clearly distinguishes child marriage from paedophilia is that the socio-cultural milieu, where child marriage is practiced, condones, and in many cases, perpetuates the practice… This is the reason, unlike paedophilia, 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 forbidden, only two per cent of children are forced into a marriage union—called that to justify the paedophilia and apparently at times condoned by local officials.
 
But some ogranisations challenge this practice. It is not widespread, yet the live-in relationship or the sex-slave union is common. It is  just that it is not called marriage.
 
The child victim is left helpless and abused by a live-in partner with the consent of the relatives and even the mother in some cases. The older man 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 financial compensation from the child sexual abuse perpetrator to the parents of the child.
 
No legal complaint is filed and he gets away with the abuse and the community remains silent, condoning the custom.
Just a few brave people report child sexual abuse, whereas 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 such sexual abuse.
 
Many such victims have been brought to the PREDA Child Therapeutic Care Centre.
 
So what is the difference between paedophilia when the same sexual abuse is covered by a so-called marriage paper?
Margaret Capelazo, the gender equality adviser for CARE Canada, says, “There are absolutely no links between child, early and forced marriage and paedophilia.”
 
She contends that child marriage “is caused by social rules and biases that devalue girls and related social and economic pressure. Paedophilia is a psychiatric phenomenon and a diagnosed mental disorder.”
With all due respect to Capelazo, it appears older men entering into a sexual union with an 11-year-old child resembles paedophilia more than marriage.
 
The marriage is a front, a cultural arrangement made by men to have their way and pleasure with children without any penalty of law.
 
To save children from such grave sexual abuse, we have to campaign against the practice of child brides and expose it for what it is—legalised, economic, socio-cultural paedophilia.
 
 • Father Shay Cullen