Op-Ed: DISPOSABLE FEMALE CHILDREN AT AGE 14
I would like to add another twist in support of raising the legal age for marriage to 18. I do agree with everything stated by Mrs. Leuga Turner, Dr. J. Tuitele and Mrs. Ponausuia, but offer these additional thoughts for the purpose of provoking further discussion.
I’m fairly certain that until now it has not been widely known that the current legal age for marriage is 14 years, with parental consent. Now that it has been brought to the attention of the public, this law can become a playing ground for sex offenders, pedophiles and sex traffickers.
Considering the increased rates of juvenile issues and parents giving up on their children or neglecting them as their families grow, especially those who are financially unstable, this (the current legal age for marriage) may be used as a way to solve their problems. We cannot deny the increase of troubled children out on the streets living a life of crime to survive or looking for security from broken homes. Just last month an adult took advantage of a juvenile’s need for money by having sex with her.
Imagine how a parent’s signature can quickly dump their problem daughter on any man that offers the right price. A quick remedy for rape and escaping prosecution would be to marry the child. A family of too many girls will have leverage to sell their daughters…a cheap commodity. Unscrupulous agents can turn this marriage into a way of prostituting these child brides. A market for young girls will be satisfied and there will be a growing demand for them in casinos, massage parlors or nightclubs. Their marriage status will cross all borders as they are being pimped.
For the past 2 years there have been reports and prosecutions of rapes and sexual assaults upon children that have been committed by fathers, stepfathers, uncles and grandfathers. I’m not talking about young romantic affairs resulting in teen pregnancies, which, compared to adult and senior men involvement, are very few. I’m speaking of calculated risks taken to get rid of a problem, gain material wealth or is a solution when the man is caught committing rape. When the rape results in pregnancy, it is considered the “right” thing to do to force the pregnant girl to marry her rapist…called “fa’amama” or cleansing.
Imagine a 14 year old who is married, especially to an adult/senior man. When the honeymoon is over, how does any law protect her from daily spousal rape when she is too immature to understand? How does she protect herself from cruel in-laws who see her as just a ‘ mea fa’avalevalea’, stupid child? Deserving to ‘mu mata I le umukuka’ have her eyes burned in the smoky kitchen. Every time she tries to run away back to her parents she will be beaten to submit under her spouse and in-laws authority. The law has allowed her to be abused, enslaved and forced into legal bondage. The law has allowed her to be used as a baby-making machine. This child has just left the sanction of her parent’s love and protection to an unfamiliar life of adulthood. She will be expected to pay the price of an experienced adult woman who has the faculties to protect herself.
Another hidden fact and well kept, yet known, secret is that many young girls are forced to marry older men who are land or domestic caretakers. This is to keep the men satisfied and happy to remain loyal foremen or domestic laborers.
Forced marriages are also a means to punish or dispose of undisciplined girls to old men or widowers. These young girls are at the mercy of unscrupulous adults who do not accept them. The best way to dispose of any unwanted female child is to marry her off to any suitor.
There is also the issue of divorced parents. Which parent has the right to sign away the child? What of divorced parents with joint custody?
Soldiers are deploying and leaving their children under legal guardianship to their parents or relatives. Do legal guardians have the power to consent to marriage?
With regard to illegitimate children, it is well known that many of these children are farmed out for relatives to care for. Is the relative/caretaker the parent or is the biological single parent? Who has the right of consent? Bear in mind these children are still under the power or influence of parents who demand their obedience. They will obey out of love or fear of their parents. Either way they are condemned to a life of hardship, cruelty and abuse. They will be forced to conform to whatever manner of existence, far beyond their imagination, in order to survive.
I doubt very much that these child brides will be moving in with families who will pamper and encourage them to further their education when the spouse demands her attention, her mouth needs to be fed, there is a mother-in-law to care for and chores that need to be done.
The issue is really not about overly romantic young girls being allowed to marry their prince charming and live happily ever after. It is about a way or means to get rid of shameful or difficult situations. Is marrying off a child at the age of 14, with parental consent, really for her best interest? Is this the life you would want for your daughter or granddaughter?