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Profile in Courage — India, Age 12

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We had a “just say no” to drugs, and “There’s no excuse for abuse.”

Also, our administration is still paying top dollar to promote “Healthy Marriage” (whatever that is, but roughly translated it means, we want people off welfare) and even had “just say no to sex outside marriage” (abstinence education), which some religions at least say they endorse, and trying to get the young men (this was the initial rationale for the movement) who have been, many of them, through our educational system, to become “responsible fathers.” And paying top dollars, including dollars earned by single mothers and other women, for this. 

Meanwhile, in India, a fairly recent law says no marriage before 18 (girls) or 21 (boys).  (Photograph) 

Her story from the CS Monitor is below.

Rekha Kalindi, a 12-year-old girl living in Bararola, India,refused to get married when her parents tried to arrange one; she wanted to stay in school. Her revolt, and those of two other girls in the region, have halted new child marriages in their rural region of West Bengal, India. The legal age for marriage in India is 18 for girls and 21 for boys. But arecent study published in the Lancet found 44.5 percent of Indian women in their early 20s had been wed by the time they were 18. Of those, 22.6 percent had been married before age 16, 2.6 percent before age 13.


This is what I think, on the topic in USA:

(1st half blog:  me blogging.  2nd half.  The story which so inspired today, perhaps there is still hope.) 

Education and cultural values – USA style.

  • Thankfully no one married me off at 12.  Thankfully, I was allowed to complete not only high school, but also, college, twice.  I was not dealing with substantial gender issues, that I recall, in my work life.  Sometimes, but not primarily.  I also got my B.Th. from an organization that ordained women, and we worked alongside me in many fields.  I continued to also do music during these years, which were exciting and adventurous also.  
  • It was after marriage  – mid-30s (not that late, really, for our culture) — as a fully adult, functional, working, contributing member of society that the infantilization of me (by virtue of gender and the pro-forma definition of marriage in this person’s mind, which I didn’t know in advance) became, and was enforced for many years, with a vengeance.  I have come to realize that while I was taught to work, my family in particular taught me nothing (by example, or discussion) about marriage, but their actions indicated that having a man (live-in) was mature, and supposedly not, wasn’t.  When I finally threw him out, someone somewhere, relegated me back to immature status, and this is how I became exposed more fully to the dysfunctional segmentation of the college-educated liberal/progressive (childless) mindset, along with others in my family who did have children, but did the routine, farm them out, and get the high-paying job means of balancing the family budget.
  • This has been a painful process, and I recently began to appreciate much more my faith (which incorporates at least a coherent system of reference) and music (which, we’re told, DOES affect how one things and reacts and sees things in life).  It’s dynamic, and puts you in dynamic relationship with LOTS of people.  So, for better or for worse, does evangelism (although that was always the weaker aspect of my involvement, I didn’t LIKE it).  
  • Anyhow, this young woman got a hold of a 2nd point of view (perspective) on herself.  This is invaluable, an actual conflict of values, and then hopefully working out the differences.  We CANNOT avoid this in the global situation, it is necessary to hash it through logically, legally, and personally.  I h
  • I said, and say, “just say no” to domestic violence, and that the family court system, which ignores its own laws in order to satisfy other priorities, and support other professions, should not be dealing with these cases, at all.   And my thinking so is based on solid experience, a decade of it coming up soon here.  I know what a difference it made, financially, and as to safety, and as to what my daughters are being taught now which is the exact opposite of what my filing for a restraining order and LEAVING told them about limits between a man and a woman in marriage.  My state, California, has in practice undermined that standard (and our mutual standards of living, of civil rights, and many more urgent things that are not fully on the new administration’s scope, as examined by funding and relative rhetoric in the matter.  STILL, women are seen as channels to provide kids, who are the cash (and, too often, sex) commodity, and THIS HAS TO STOP!

Here, women who put the priority on mothering, working their fields around it, are also not as popular (these days) with feminist organizations. These organizations address multiple issues regarding women.  

But my issue (this blog), right now, is topic-specific, and venue-specific, i.e., the courts and the organizations that are working to undermine due process, many of which are outside the courts.  And that these “outside the courts” situations sometimes have body counts.  

If “women of faith” leave their man for due legal cause (having finally discovered the law, which I just about guarantee you will not be shared in those venues), they are often abandoned by that church for doing so (after all, the abuse happened while they were involved, $$, tithes, etc., are involved).  Thereafter, though charity can and occasionally refuge sometimes do (sometimes do NOT) trickle down from that tax-exempt source, that charity, or temporary refuge does not replace or fix what was broken.  Generally speaking, the tragedy doesn’t even cause the doctrine or practices of the church to even miss a beat.  They continue downplaying abuse, continue putting out ridiculous (no reference to the law) pamphlets about how to help someone caught up in it.  In this manner, the religious organizations (i’m talking Christian, which is my primary exposure) continue to set themselves above and apart / ‘special’ from the laws in place to protect women and children from violence — or, in the case of child support, from simply being robbed, which is another way to end up on charity (and how I was).

It takes money to run a church.  If violent men were properly confronted (and properly includes PUBLICALLY) and admonished, for an example to others, chances are THAT church at least would make it clear that within its ranks, this is unacceptable.  Oddly enough, I’ve found the ones that are real strong on no sex outside marriage (from the pulpit and printed materials) are quite weak on this issue.   I was recently in a prominent one here that was made fully aware (by me) of the situation:  child support arrears, children stolen, court orders violated, profession wrecked, I am on charity (again).  I had some hope they might put their regal authority (as pastors) and go down to the other place and simply let the other pastor/outfit know that those cute kids’ Dad was in violation of the law, will you please support and encourage him to get on the proper side of it?  In other words, I as a person in this place was respecting authority (and they had some) and clearly asking that it be wielded to help a single woman who had lost her children to a batterer  Nope.  But they did say something about going down to confront him on adultery.  Good grief!

So, it was made clear that there is a professional, I guess, no-competition law between these outfits.  Which is how I again deduced that “what it’s about” is something other than actual “righteousness,” but like any other business, profitability.  

We are OK to be recipients of charity, but not equal partners in crime, or as it may be “faith.”  When it comes to speaking, teaching, or almost any of the venues.  This is personally reducing a woman to her gender, but in all the other areas of life.  It is not ‘protective,’ but socially and spiritually eroding.  This is how it should go, in the courts (and also what the law says):

How hard is this?  Violence verified?  Then

NO contact with abuser.  No joint custody, no regular vistation. We are raising generations of children to accept a discrepancy between law and law enforcement, between crime and consequences.  This is basically re-writing the English language, and endorsing “double-speak.”

Sometimes years go by, in which a woman has to rebuild her relationships (social, work, etc.) often enough, and also heal, rediscover the non-abused, non-degraded, intelligent resourceful self.  During these years, sometimes child support is ordered, and that becomes another lever of control, as do the visitation exchanges (and mine were WEEKLY with my batterer, from the very start, practically.)  In my case, the family of origin, I suppose aghast that I’d gotten divorced (Which is odd, as we’re liberal, atheist, supposedly, and both my relatives married a man on his second wife, as did my own mother), and perhaps their oversight had been exposed.  Or, perhaps, it was that I didn’t take orders from them, after ahving stated clearly I wasn’t takeing them (in fact, giving a few) from my husband any more.  

When as she is rebuilding, he is, with support, continuing to tear down, this is extremely destructive.  Eventually, this can get to a family law venue, where she is told to “get along” with this clearly destructive (as measured by compliance with court orders, is one way, another is compliance with the law in general) personality, a literal impossibility.  

I say, and when a woman (or, OK, man?) is just coming out of that high-risk, potentially lethal situation, if there are children, they are taught by this state that it is NOT excusable to beat on a woman.  

This is not going to happen if the legislatures, law enforcement, judges, and (when they ARE necessary) custody evaluators do not get on the same page.  What is happening instead is that these personnel are getting together, out of real-time involvement with the public and people served, and gettting together on an entirely different page than what the law says.  They are on the “therapy” page.  Uninformed us, we read the literal law (and even case histories) and think that in this venue, it should have weight.

So I THINK:

If a domestic violence restraining order is granted — we hope, properly — then he loses custody, PERIOD.  Visitation, maybe later.  No Joint Nothing.  No more high-conflict custody, and everyone get back to work.  Men are still paid more per $$ anyhow. And IF he physically abused her, financial abuse is also probably (although I’ve known cases where it isn’t).  

They are respected in light of their work and expected to succeed in it, this is what men in this culture have been rewarded for, and what supposedly “manhood,” culturally and religiously (see recent post).  Simultaneously, in the courts, and in divorce, there is a call to Have one’s cake and eat it too, and its not called p_ _ _ _   envy, but rather the other part, that we have, and that is a natural bond we sometimes have with children we have raised.  If you don’t believe me, then go back and read the 1984 Surgeon General’s declaration that breastfeeding is healthy.  (I have personally been attacked on this part, right after nursing, good grief!).    

Many times the violence is a matter of her “womanhood” to start with, and an entitlement to hit.  Why should it be part of “childhood” to see this at home?  Or to experience a protective parent (largely female, but that’s the term) thereafter being browbeaten in court, or even go homeless as a result of it (yes, it happens).   

DV = No Custody would at least, he would not prevent HER from getting back to work if he’s kept distance.  This is a punitive effect, and intended to be seen as so.  I am sick of the family court trying to “even the score” artificially in these situations.  This is called “lying,” with evasive, euphemistic jargon, and if there is anywhere it’s important not to lie, it’s in pursuit of “justice.”  There’s no excuse anymore for beating each other up.   Yet, we saw a case the other day (last post, Rosenberg article) where police arrived just in time to see a young man, blaming circumstances, decapitate his little sister, after having already killed another.  SOMETHING ain’t spiritually right in USA-land…).  I think we should teach women and girls self-defense, for real !  ALL of them….

As over here, in India, 

having a law as to safety of young girls (&  boys) & women doesn’t get it enforced or culture changed.

Thus, this article is not really “off-topic.”   

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

She just said “No!” to marriage.  At 12.

And was heard, and the ripple effect continued, helping others.

(In our country, we still have children saying “No!” to being sent to live with convicted child abusers, or women-batterers, and they are NOT heard.  Women who protect their children from this by failing to comply with court orders that violate existing laws have been jailed, and have had to figure it out).  

The story is self-explanatory and is below.  

http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0424/p06s07-wosc.html

India listens after a child bride says ‘I won’t.’

The girl’s courage has prompted India, where nearly half of all females wed before age 18, to consider the consequences of marrying young.

Nearly half of all Indian females get married before turning the legal minimum age of 18. The requirement has been in place for more than three decades, but centuries of custom don’t change overnight – and that’s especially true in Bararola, a land carved up into small farm plots and crisscrossed by dirt paths that takes at least a day’s journey to reach from Calcutta. But even here, some people are taking a stand.

Many locals eke out a living making beedis, a leaf-wrapped Indian cigarette. Rekha was rollingbeedis with her parents inside their mud-hut home when they broached her nuptials.

“I was very angry,” says Rekha. “I told my father very clearly that this is my age of studying in school, and I didn’t want to marry.”

With the help of friends, teachers, and administrators, Rekha accomplished what the law alone has not. No child marriages have taken place in the surrounding villages where she and two other girls refused to marry last summer, and similar approaches are meeting some success in other regions.

“We have a strong law and we need to find the people who can advocate for [it],” says Sunayana Walia, a senior researcher at the Delhi office of the International Center for Research on Women. “All the [successful] interventions are tapping the girls … so they are able to campaign on this issue, along with community participation.”

 

DETERMINED NOT TO FOLLOW HER SISTER’S PATH

South Asia has the world’s highest levels of child marriage. A paper published in the Lancet,a British medical journal, in March found that 44.5 percent of Indian women who recently reached 20 to 24 years of age had been married by the time they were 18. Of these, 22.6 percent were wed before age 16 – and 2.6 percent before 13.

Child brides face greater health risks and their babies tend to be sicker, weaker, and less likely to survive childhood, according to UNICEF. The child-welfare agency also cites research from Harvard University that found that even a one-year postponement of marriage increases these girls’ schooling level by a third of a year, and their literacy by 5 percent to 10 percent.

Rekha learned about the dangers of child marriage firsthand when her older sister got married at age 11. She is now illiterate, and lost all four of her children within one year of birth.

“I had a talk with my sister,” Rekha says. “She said, ‘You have seen me, I’ve lost my children…. It’s good you stood against child marriage.’ “

Rekha had other motivations as well. Like many children here, she had to leave school to work for her family. But she was granted a rare second chance to improve her education through a goverment program called the National Child Labour Project, which, in her district of Purulia, offers remedial education to 4,500 children. Rekha says she did not want to stop school again on account of marriage.

“They love to come to school,” says Prosenjit Kundu, the district project director. “These schools are the only place where they are treated as children. Otherwise, they are workers.”

Yet they aren’t entirely sheltered from the adult world. Five children from each school are bused to extra lessons in the nearby city through the Child Activist Initiative, which is partly funded and supported by UNICEF. The kids, including Rekha, are given leadership training and informed of their rights on a range of issues from forced labor to the legal age for marriage. The girls think up solutions and teach others back in the village.

{{SCHOOLS TEACH VALUES.  WHAT HAPPENS IN THEM IS IMPORTANT!}}

The Purulia program is new, but has already helped Rekha and two other girls refuse to marry under age – saving, by example, many of their friends from the same situation. Similar child rights programs backed by UNICEF operate across India and involve more than 60,000 children in Bangladesh. The programs are also credited with recently helping another girl in Nepal refuse early marriage.

EVEN THE PRESIDENT IS LISTENING

In Rekha’s case, her parents initially did not listen to her. But she soon went to friends and teachers. They all came to talk with Rekha’s parents, including Mr. Kundu, the government official. That collective support for her and work with her parents was crucial, says Kundu. {footnote1}

“Children are not taken seriously in families,” he says. “A girl of 11.5 years who takes a decision for her own against the family members’ will – this is an enormous, courageous act.”

During a visit from two foreign journalists, the barefoot Rehka, dressed in bright purple and yellow, fielded questions confidently, despite the crowd the interview attracted. In February, she addressed a gathering of 6,000 beedi workers, asking them to allow their children to stay in school and delay marriage. Her best friend, Budhamani Kalindi, says she hasn’t gotten any pressure to marry now that Rekha has become such a role model.

“It’s terrific how you get that ripple effect of one being brave, sticking her neck out … and then others following,” says Sarah Crowe, a spokeswoman for UNICEF in Delhi.

Those ripples extend all the way to the president of India, Shrimati Pratibha Devisingh Patil, who, after reading about Rekha in the Hindustan Times newspaper, has requested to meet her. That makes her father happy, and he says he supports her staying in school.

The custom has proved hard to change, says Ms. Crowe, partly because it’s often embedded in poverty. Sometimes parents marry off a daugter to lighten their economic burden, though the problem extends into the middle and upper classes too, she adds. It’s also incorrectly assumed that an early marriage will protect the girl from violence and sexual abuse from men.

Enforcement of age laws, meanwhile, is hampered by the lack of birth records. Only 40 percent of births in India are registered; in Bangladesh, the number is just 10 percent.

“You can’t prove a child is a child if you’ve got no certificate,” Crowe says. The international community is working hard on birth registration, she says, but it’s a daunting task in a place like India that has more than 1 billion people.

Back in Bararola, one of those billions faces a brighter future. Rekha says she wants to be a teacher when she grows up.

Is she open to marriage eventually? “Anything after 18,” she says, “but not before 18 at all.”

 

 

{my “footnote1″}  Yes, the collective support is important.  While I do not mean to trivialize the differences, how is it that international organizations will support the law overseas, but within the U.S., when a variety of agencies sometimes come to judges and present evidence of abuse, this is discredited, or sometimes not even allowed to be considered, by a presiding judge?  When judges are not ethical, a country is going to go down fast!  I think that the U.S. needs to be more honest about what is going on within its own borders, and that includes mis-appropriation of federal funding to produce desired outcomes in court (vs. truthful/ just / due process ones).   This collective effort involved the input of a  young lady, and her friends.  

(The link also leads to a video of the reporter discussing how this situation came to pass.)

…”Reporter Ben Arnoldy discusses Rehka Kalinda, her family, and potential reasons behind her self-awareness.”

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martinplaut

Journalist specialising in the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa

Let's Get Honest! Blog: Absolutely Uncommon Analysis of Family & Conciliation Courts' Operations, Practices, & History

'A Different Kind of Attention Develops Sound Judgment' | 'Suppose I'm Right Here?...' (posted 3/23 & 3/5/2014). Over 680 posts, Public-Interest Investigative Blogging On These Matters Since 2009.

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