Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Early Marriage

The other day a lady we know married off her, we think, 12 year-old daughter to a man in his twenties.  Yes, we were in shock, but it's not all that uncommon here.  You cannot legally marry at that age, but if you go to a H1ndu priest and he does the religious part for you then all of your neighbors consider you married.

The family history is this: the mother was married at probably 14 and was in and out of the trade anyway in the following years. Her mother-in-law who they lived with (everyone does) was very abusive to her and her husband followed that attitude.  She became a widow in her early 20's and has been raising her daughter on her own since then.  People have been sponsoring her daughter to go to school and while she didn't like going to class she seemed to be doing well.

Our friends here who have been sponsoring her to school had hopes that this girl would break the cycle in her family.

This 'marriage' is very disappointing and even disturbing from a child abuse aspect but the girl and the man had probably been inappropriate with each other and the mother reacted because:

1. It would be difficult to marry off a daughter later that people knew had already been messing around.
2. As a poor, single mother with no hope of remarriage herself in the culture she would have difficulty raising a dowry.
3. If her daughter was already being willingly promiscuous then that would leave her even that much more at risk to end up in the trade.
4. Maybe a 'better' offer wouldn't come along later.

What can we do?  Nothing but offer love even though we don't approve of their choices.  This girl won't break the cycle, but there are others who will........

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