I wrote recently about khatatna in the United States, the practice of slicing a girl’s gentiles, behavior common in the Middle East. (Blog 6/30/17) Though a cultural ritual, it has no place in the United States. Perpetrators should be caught and punished.
Khatatna may be an abusive tradition brought to us by immigrants, but another offense against young girls is as American as apple pie. Child brides. Between 2009 and 2011, 3,000 girls under the age of 18 have been forced to marry in this country. They live in places as distant as South Bronx and California. (Girls in White Dresses,” by Gayle Tzemach, Lemmon, Ms magazine, Summer 2017, pgs. 31-34.)
No national minimum age exists to marry in this country. New Jersey recently passed a bill banning child brides, but Governor Chris Christie vetoed it. The only recourse left these girls is either to maim themselves or commit suicide. (Ibid, pg. 33.)
While other states have set limits on marriageable age, most allow for religious exceptions. The ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, for example, supports child marriages.(Ibid pg. 33.) In other cases, girls are temporarily shipped to their home countries to skirt the law, the same way some parents skirt the law banning khatatna.
Non-profits attempt to help these young victims. But, if a girl can’t be rescued, they give her birth control shots to prevent an early pregnancy. Pregnancy at a young age can endanger a girl’s life. Other negatives attend. Child brides are 18 times more likely to be beaten by their spouses and to drop out of high school. Many live in poverty without any future. (Ibid, pg. 33)
This nation must examine its conscience where religious and/or third world practices are concerned. Khatatna and forced child marriages have no place in our society. Failing to protect powerless girls betrays our avowal of human rights. Our silence is our national shame.
(Originally posted 8/7/17)