Girl Child Marriages Disc/May 1997


Query From Rahni Ennor Rahni.Ennor@anu.edu.au 08 May 1997

Looking for any info on girl child marriages - anywhere in the world. Am in very preliminary stages of research, so any info/comments would be great. Thanks.

[Editor's Note: Social work pioneer Mary Richmond wrote a book entitled _Child Marriage_ in 1924. I have used much of her work in my paper to be presented at next week's Carleton Conference on Family History in Ottawa, Canada. I will be happy to send a copy of my paper to anyone who is interested in this topic.
Kriste Lindenmeyer KAL6444@tntech.edu]

Responses:

From Susan Schwerer smselmo@aol.com 09 May 1997

May I suggest that Rahni look to the Gypsy community for information on this topic? I am fascinated by their practices and wonder what goes on now in 1997. Most of the literature I've run across has been 1960s-70s, but if there is anything current available, I think this is a relevant group to explore.

From Debbie Nathan dnathan@utep.edu 09 May 1997

Not sure what this means: formal marriage or the girl leaving home with a male, setting up an independent household, having children? I live on the Texas-Mexico border, and in Cd. Juarez, right across from El Paso, I know two women--one in her 30s and the other 18, who both entered the above relationships at about age 13. The former's partner was in his 30s, the latter 28 when the relationships began. The former married her partner soon after and is still married to him. I am not sure if the latter couple has ever legally married, but these kinds of out-of-wedlock relationships are quite common around here, among girls whose families gave immigrated from the Mexican countryside. They are background to some highly publicized cases lately in the U.S. (California/Texas) where the male partner is accused of child sexual abuse, but insists that this is the way it's done back in the home (mexican) villages.

From Sugandha Johar sjohar@library.usyd.edu.au 09 May 1997

I missed the original posting, but have you looked at the Indian sub-continent? Child marriages were the norm till the first quarter of this century, and even today in many/most parts of rural India a girl is married very young. Although the legal age for a marriage was raised to 16 by various laws, marrying a girl after her attaining puberty is/was considered to be a blot on the honour of her family.

In many cases, the marriage can be of children as young as one or two years old. However, in such cases, the bride stays in her parental home until attaining puberty, after which she is sent to her in-laws with great pomp and show. You can find numerous texts about this system in your library, but if you are interested I could hunt out some references in a short while.

From Varda Ullman Novick vunovick@netcom.com 12 May 1997

I remember reading last year in the New York Times that some Jewish ultra-orthodox men secretly betroth their infants, based on a loophole in Jewish law, as a punitive measure against their wives. I wish I remembered more.

From Don Weitzman dqw@socrates.berkeley.edu 12 May 1997

There was a case of Iraqi immigrants in Nebraska who forced their 13 and 14-year old daughters in arranged marriages, and could not understand the child abuse and rape charges that resulted. This was in the New York Times of December 1 or 2, 1996.

From Max Dashu maxdashu@lanminds.com 12 May 1997

In reply to Rahni's request for info on girl child marriages" I just found a very interesting reference to a study being done by Debbie Taylor in Britain on "Servile Forms of Marriage," which she defines as including "very young marriages," as well as ones in which daughters are sold as wives or concubines "in exchange for favors or release from debt." This reference was posted in the Anti-Slavery International web site; Taylor was asking for international information for a study supposed to be completed in February. No e-mail address was given, but her address is listed as: 66, Warwick St, Oxford OX4 1SX, UK and phone +44-865-245697. If you contact her, I would be very, very interested in finding out if and where she's posted this article on the Web.

The subject is vast. Most of the modern references I've seen come from South Asia. You might check out recent literature on Iranian women. The _Sayings of Ayatollah Khomeini_(Bantam, 1980) reflects the regime's definition of marriageable age for girls as nine years old. Khomeini indicates that marriage can take place before that age, though it is not supposed to be consummated until the bride is of age, but there are no penalties: "If a man who has married a girl who has not reached puberty possess her sexually before her ninth birthday, inflicting traumatisms upon her, he has no right to repeat such an act with her." Good luck.

From Maria Elena Raymond M-Raymond@compuserve.com 13 May 1997

You might take a look at _Lives in an Iranian Village: Women of Deh Koh_ by Erika Friedl (Smithsonian Institute Press, 1989); _May You Be the Mother Of a Hundred Sons: A Journey Among the Women of India_ by Elisabeth Bumiller (Ballantine, 1990); and _Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society_ by Fatima Mernissi (Indiana U Press, revised ed. 1987).

...There have been some cases cited in the local press near Sacramento, California and further south in the San Joaquin Valley. I'm sure the Sacramento Bee did several articles about the Hmong settlements, and their problems adjusting to "western" culture. One of the last articles focused on the high rate of run-away girls from families who were forcing them into arranged marriages with much older men. The families were reluctant to report the missing girls to the police. Some girls came home, some did not. I'm sure if you searched the Bee archives [can be found on the H-Women Media Sources section] for mid-late 1980s for this particular topic of girl child marriages you would find the articles. Best wishes.

From Max Dashu maxdashu@lanminds.com 13 May 1997

One more on child marriages: I just saw a report in the San Francisco Chronicle (May 13[1997]) from Ethiopian News Agency reporting "teenage" girls being forced into marriage to elderly cousins. The actual item was that six girls have killed themselves over the last nine months to escape such marriages. The government is trying to change the tradition, saying "it is tantamount to slavery."

From Randolph Hollingsworth rho1100@ukcc.uky.edu 19 May 1997

My students were very intrigued (and argued a lot about) the concept of girl sweethearts that the traditional Masai culture espouses--sexual activity is encouraged between young warriors (18-30) and young girls (8-11). The key is NOT to make the girl pregnant, but everything else goes. Of course marriage (and requisite circumcision) then comes to the adolescent girl when an elder expresses interest--differences in ages span 30-40 years. Maybe this is not in keeping with what you are pursuing, but is of interests to us raised under the post-Victorian rules of gender and age.


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