Femme Fatality — the perilous side of being a woman

Too Young to Marry

Today I lend my voice one more time in defense of young women and children, two of the groups that have suffered more injustices than any other group in the history of the world.

Young women, children really, continue to be forced into arranged marriages in more traditional parts of the world, especially Sub-saharan Africa and South East Asia. For example, in Niger (Africa), it is estimated that 77% of the women between the ages of 20-24, were married before they turned 18. In Bangladesh it is 65%. UNICEF global figures from 2009 show that 36 per cent of women aged 20–24 were married or in union before they reached 18 and the latest numbers estimates 51 million of girls under 18 are married world-wide. In the UK an estimated 1,000 out of 8,000 forced marriages every year involve a person under the age of 15.

So in light of these grim realities, I would like to nominate a 15-year-old Saudi girl as my heroine of the week. Why? Well, she simply locked herself in a room and refused to allow her marriage to a 90-year-old man to be consummated. Now the would-be husband is suing the family to try to recoup the roughly $18K he paid as part of a dowry to the family. I say give the girl the money and protect her sisters (if she has any) against their dad’s future transactions involving his daughters.

Whenever a youngster like this one finds the courage to do something as extraordinary as what she did, we need to celebrate. She was a lot smarter and luckier than the 14-year-old boy who was raped by a Saudi Air Force Sargeant stationed in the U.S. and she is most likely in a better place than the 23-year-old who was raped (and later died in a hospital in Singapore) by 6 men on a bus in New Delhi in India recently. The attack on this woman, a medical student from a middle class in India, was so vicious that I post the story here, but caution you not to read it if you don’t want to be disturbed by the details. On the other hand, if you read it, you will understand the reason for my being so outraged.

This last story is repugnant to the highest degree. It is this sort of rapacious, grotesque, indignant behavior that reminds us constantly that there is something terribly wrong with our species. And then, to add insult to injury, some bearded guru in India goes around saying that the girl was as guilty as her killers: “She should have called the culprits brothers and begged before them to stop,” he opined.

Where in the world do these “religious” types get their mores? I am so outraged that if I hear another baseless pronouncement coming out of the mouth of a clergy type, I might just create a website where people will be allowed to slap the face of gurus, reverends of all sorts, imams, and all manners of priests, until they are forced to shut up. You know, one of those where the voice keeps repeating, “Shut up, shut up, shut up, you imbecile…” Okay, I know that will not solve anything but it will at least help me deal with the anger I feel inside toward people who are supposed to be connected to the Almighty and yet fall so deeply into the abyss when speaking about matters so critical to our human dignity. I have no patience for these people anymore.

I mourn for the family of this 23-year-old girl whose only “crime”  was to be out with a friend on a night of merry-making-moving-going. And they wanted to “teach her a lesson…” I hope the Indian judiciary will put those brutes away for life. Perhaps they will learn THEIR lesson then.

And may the whole country of India (and the world) learn this lesson: if you don’t protect your most vulnerable, you will eventually become the victim of your own indifference.

Ivanildo C. Trindade