My Thoughts on Arranged Marriage and Child Brides

As an American, I know for a fact that I have many freedoms I take for granted every single day. While browsing about CNN I came across an article that really got to me, and made me realize that more than I usually do.

Nujood Ali was only ten years old when she married her husband- a man in his thirties. Her marriage was arranged by her family, she had no say in the matter. According to Nujood's father, Nujood's husband was not supposed to do anything sexual with her until she was in her 20s, however that didn't happen. Instead, she was raped and molested for months. In addition to sexual assault, she was the victim of physical beatings and mental torture.

When the abuse became too much for Nujood she went to her mother for help, but nothing changed. "When I heard, my heart burned for her," her mother said, but because she was married she was essentially the property of her husband now, and nothing could be done.

What makes this story even more heartbreaking is the fact that Nujood is only one girl, and there are millions more in similar situations. In the middle eastern country of Yemen where Nujood is from, over half of all girls are married before they even reach the age of 18. This practice is not discouraged by the government, in fact it's encouraged. The legal age for marriage used to be 15, but it was lowered ten years ago so that even younger children could be married.

Obviously arranged marriage is an aspect of culture, and many proponents of arranged marriage argue that opponents are culturally discriminating. My response to that is this: Of course different cultures have different customs, and they're certainly allowed to, but no practice that violates basic human rights is protected by culture. You cannot allow ten year old children to be raped and beaten, and argue that it's simply part of your culture. It infuriates me to think about the fact that people do so.

Everyone should have the right to privacy, to not be forced into a relationship that isn't their choice. No one should be exploited in the fashion that Nujood Ali was. Obviously, not all arranged marriages turn out like Nujood's, but enough of them do to show that the practice is flawed and dangerous.

Nujood was lucky, however, and she was able to escape from her marriage. While she was visiting her parents one day, she ran away to a central town court house. She then demanded to speak to a judge and requested a divorce. Her husband however, was not prosecuted for pedophilia, but he was compensated $200 for the loss of his wife.Nujood's human rights lawyer donated the money on her behalf. Sadly, not all girls in situations like Nujood's are as lucky.
Posted on July 16th, 2008 at 04:17pm

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