Child Bride Mother
February 10, 2015 6:14 AM   Subscribe

In Guatemala, the legal age of marriage is 14 with parental consent, but in Petén, in the northern part of the country, the law seems to be more of a suggestion. Underage brides are everywhere. They parade endlessly through Petén’s hospital in San Benito, seeking medical care. Most have traveled from the villages along the mud-soaked roads that flow out in all directions. I visited almost a dozen of these villages to meet some of the child brides of Petén for the latest Too Young to Wed transmedia project, this one a partnership with the United Nations Population Fund. Guatemala was the 10th country I had worked in documenting the issue of child marriage since 2003, after a chance encounter with several young brides in Afghanistan.
posted by josher71 (4 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Parents should not be allowed to sanction child abuse. While this article speaks for itself, I do think it's interesting how US audiences might easily see such teens as purely being exploited whereas US teen pregnancy campaigns focus on teen girls as at fault for their exploitation which also tends to serve the males who are let off the hook for the pregnancy or duties of parenthood.

I will also add that for myself and many other women I know who had sex as teens-- penetrative sex is often painful and sucky. It often of itself does not even benefit the woman/girl other than that she is rewarded for submitting to it by getting emotional support or relief from pressure/coercion that will persist if she resists if she actually has any choice at all. And she then carries the entire impact of a pregnancy including the social shaming,reduced social status, viewed as the sole cause of her own and her child's suffering/poverty/and state of need of support. Even when abortion is available,that does not negate that being forced to deal with a pregnancy and the choice to terminate can't be very hard on some women and teens, even if the termination itself might come as a relief to a very difficult situation.

We need to protect teens from exploitation and to hold men, including young adult men, accountable for this shit, including preventatively teaching them how to manage their urges and capacity for destruction of other humans for their own benefit/pleasure and teaching them to consider the ethical implication of age-gap relationships and power imbalances in their sexual/romantic exploits.

Child marriage, sanctioned by entire communities, is so messed up and I really hope these works to bring to light what is happening will inspire communities perpetuating this abuse on their children to start standing up against it.
posted by xarnop at 8:06 AM on February 10, 2015 [7 favorites]

This (child brides in Guatemala) is a terrifyingly difficult issue which doesn't seem to have any clear solution. The photos, quotes, and video in the linked article are simply heartbreaking.

Perhaps it's not surprising (given the endemic poverty) that Guatemala also has staggering levels of child malnutrition; and for indigenous children under age 5, it's 80%.To me, that's a slow-moving genocide.

And young women in rural Guatemala who manage to avoid the trap of early pregnancy still face many other problems (lack of education, lack of employment, not to mention the threat of femicide).

Sadly, the US shares some of the blame for this; we orchestrated an overthrow of their fledgling democracy in 1954, interfered again in 1963, sent Green Berets to train paramilitary groups (later tied to death squads), and throughout the 1970's and 80's we supported the government (financially and militarily) during the brutal civil war that resulted in well over a hundred thousand deaths and well over a million refugees (in a country of, at the time, only 12 million people). It's now no surprise that the resulting poverty and instability in rural areas (where most of the civil war was fought) have led to young women having little effective rights, few options, and no protections.
posted by math at 10:03 AM on February 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

This is a minor complaint in the grand spectrum of things, but I feel as if calling these children "brides" is a way to downplay what is going on here, which is sexual abuse. "Bride" implies that a young girl is somehow both equal to her spouse and allowed the privilege(!) of consent in marital relations.

Why not just start referring to these children as what they are? Child sex slaves would be a hell of a lot more honest. Hiding behind "bride" allows people to pull their own gauzy associations (about marriage, cultural traditions and relationships) as a veil over the barter and sexual abuse of children.
posted by sobell at 11:10 AM on February 10, 2015 [8 favorites]

To xarnop, I agree with you so much when you say,
I really hope these works to bring to light what is happening [and] will inspire communities perpetuating this abuse on their children to start standing up against it.
Unfortunately, these communities seem to be the least likely to have the cohesion or power to ever stop the abuse.
posted by math at 11:35 AM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

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