Only Thirteen

No one has the right to marry off a 13-year-old American citizen.

It’s been happening in the UK for years: immigrant Asian parents insisting upon arranged marriages for their daughters to men in the home country (among others: Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Turkey) to enable the men to move to the UK on a spouse visa. Teenage girls whose entire lives have been spent in London or Leeds – and who hold UK passports – have been mandated by their parents and brothers to marry strangers twice their age or more.

If they object, they are often threatened, beaten, and murdered.

The same story is repeated over and over in other EU countries such as Germany.

Now it seems that the pattern, suspected in the US, has made headlines. A California girl of only 13, Jessie Bender – whose mother lied about her disappearance to gain police aid in finding her – has been discovered hidden by relatives who say she did not want to accompany her mother on a two-month visit to Pakistan, where an arranged marriage awaited her.

Pakistan is no country to visit on a whim. Just last month, the US State Department updated its warnings, advising American citizens to avoid Pakistan, where tribal rivalries, al Qaeda, kidnapping for ransom, and random violence all threaten Americans’ safety.

Why would a mother take her 13-year-old daughter out of school to journey to such a country, and plan to spend eight weeks?

There’s really only one answer.

These arranged marriages, forcing teenagers (recall that at thirteen, Jessie Bender is too young to marry in the US even with her parents’ consent) to submit to parents and to older men who are total strangers, must be stopped. It is child abuse to give over one’s daughter – or son – to such a travesty of loving, committed, healthy marriage. People have no more right to subject their children to forced marriages – especially outside their own country – than they do to rob a bank.

Because such false “marriages” steal from a girl her safety, peace of mind, and her very childhood.

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Filed under Family, Law, Love, Musings, News, Politics

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