According to one blogger, “Had [“Mo”] Mohammad Khan taken [Jessie] to Pakistan and married her off, it would have been almost impossible for the child to escape again. Particularly from a rural area. She would have been repeatedly raped by her ‘husband’, beaten by her in-laws and turned into a slave. And Khan would have likely profited from the exchange. Khan didn’t just marry or live with a middle aged American woman; he married a woman with at least one girl at home. And in Pakistan that translates into a salable commodity.”
This is not the first time that young American girls have been spirited away as unwilling brides to a Muslim-majority country. In 2004, 26-year-old Philadelphia resident Omar Rashaad Bey, an American citizen, entered into an “Islamic marriage” with a 14-year-old girl and then moved with her to Cairo. While in Egypt he had an affair with her sister. He then “married” another 15-year-old Philadelphia girl via the Internet and brought her to Cairo too. American officials started an investigation after the first “wife” brought their one-year-old son to the Embassy to register him for an American passport. Bey eventually returned to America, where he was arrested and indicted on three counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places. In March, 2011, he was sentenced to eight years in prison and ordered to register as a sex offender.
Europe is plagued by many more such cases of forced child marriage. According to the BBC, the police in South Wales have dealt with 49 cases of forced marriage in the past year (2010) alone.
“Strategies for helping victims included supplying them with a secret mobile phone if they feared they were being lured to their family’s country of origin as a prelude to a forced marriage….The [special police] force had also set up a ‘buddy’ system where forced marriage ‘survivors’ were a role model to those who were now going through the trauma.”
Even Saudi Arabia, which is rife with child marriage and has no law against it, has begun taking baby steps to stop the practice. According to the Saudi newspaper Al Watan, 40 cases of child marriage were prevented in the eastern part of the country when authorities spoke out against it. In 2009, the Saudi Minister of Justice issued a statement saying that it would soon implement a ban on the practice, although it has failed to do so. The Facebook group, Saudi Women Revolution, which I have written about before, has a petition on its website demanding that the Justice Ministry follow through on its initial promise.
While the American State Department occasionally rattles its rusty saber on behalf of Muslim women’s rights, if our government has, so far, refused to get involved in Libya, (even after the Arab League has asked for such involvement), and refused to get involved in Darfur—then I doubt our country will go to the mat for women in Muslim countries.
According to Newsweek, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton favors women’s rights everywhere. She is quoted as saying:
“I believe that the rights of women and girls is the unfinished business of the 21st century….We see women and girls across the world who are oppressed and violated and demeaned and degraded and denied so much of what they are entitled to as our fellow human beings.”
When challenged by Egyptians who argued that her many references to women’s rights in Egypt constitute meddling in Egyptian internal affairs, she responded: “If a country doesn’t recognize minority rights and human rights, including women’s rights, you will not have the kind of stability and prosperity that is possible.”
However, on her watch, the American State Department is backing away from its verbal commitments to women in Afghanistan.
In 2010, when the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) sought bids for a land reform program in Afghanistan, it initially insisted that the winning contractor meet specific goals to promote women’s rights: “The number of deeds granting women title had to increase by 50 percent; there would have to be regular media coverage on women’s land rights; and teaching materials for secondary schools and universities would have to include material on women’s rights.”
Later, however, USAID backtracked and eliminated the requirements. According to J. Alexander Thier, the director of USAID’s Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs, “If you’re targeting an issue, you need to target it in a way you can achieve those objectives….The women’s issue is one where we need hardheaded realism…if we become unrealistic and overfocused . . . we get ourselves in trouble.” Another “senior official” said: “Gender issues are going to have to take a back seat to other priorities.”
Brava to California’s Jessie Bender for saving herself and at least two of her siblings. She lives in America and believes that she has certain rights. So young—so brave. But what will become of her? She has a mother—the only mother she will ever have—who was ready to sell her down the river for $3000.00. Who can, who will, ever take her mother’s place? The cruelty of this American-Muslim mother to her American (probably non-Muslim) daughter is breathtaking. I have written about this phenomenon in Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman.
Child marriage is opposed by the Convention Against All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). It is a toothless document. The United Nations does not enforce individual rights over the objections of its member nation states.
Child marriage is an abomination. Think of the girls you know who are 10, 12, 14 years old. Can you imagine how a forced, arranged marriage to a much older stranger, probably one who believes it is his absolute right to rape and beat his wife, would psychologically cripple them for life, stunt all growth, demoralize them forevermore?
Who can ever forget the film Osama? It is set in Afghanistan and concerns an 11- 12 year-old girl who must dress as a boy in order to work to feed her widowed mother and younger siblings. (Under the Taliban, women were not allowed to work; they starved or turned to prostitution which meant degraded and dangerous lives).
However, the dreaded Taliban drag the girl Osama away from her job in a small shop and into a madrasa. She is only found out when she begins to menstruate. The imam who runs the madrasa is old enough to be her grandfather. He is fat, gross, coarse, cruel, and ugly. However, he is very attracted to this 12 year-old boy/girl, marries her, and locks her up together with his other, three much older wives.
We should not want to consign young American girls, Muslim and non-Muslim to such cruel fates.