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Letter to Editor: Let’s talk sex, child marriage and T&T’s sexually charged society

“The current debate on child marriages has been a morose, crass exchange of rebuttals over the right to grant the child the opportunity to marry or not marry along a subjective morally defined age range—vis a vis a grant of the right to let them know when to lust, love and have sex using foolproof, technically defined, sexualised parameters.

“And by the grant of a right to marry, I mean the conditions for a sex license. And by conditions I mean age. And by sex license I mean the Marriage Act.”

The following Letter to the Editor regarding discussions on ending child marriages in Trinidad and Tobago was submitted to Wired868 by Alana Abdool:

Photo: Young girls protest against child marriage in Africa. (Copyright Plan-International)
Photo: Young girls protest against child marriage in Africa.
(Copyright Plan-International)

Whenever I think about the hyper-sexualised culture of youths—driven by profiteers, endorsed by parents and overlooked by the state as ‘the prudish concern of the religious’—I am puzzled by the arguments brought for and against child marriage.

It is a concomitant theory that rampant objectification is the offspring of a highly sexualised society. It is evident that the voices of the enlightened and progressives are crying out against the sexism and objectification of women in particular.

Is this then a matter of having our senses become so dulled to the bombardment of sexuality and objectification that we fail to recognise it? Or is it that we never properly acknowledged it? Either way, it seems everyone is in a state of abject oblivion.

Psychology suggests sexual objectification has been linked to sexual coercion and sexual violence. The need to objectify stems from an inability to see someone as a whole person.

It is a mark of mental immaturity to see someone as an object or someone who is there only to fulfil a special role or need. Objects are something that need to be acted upon whereas a whole person is capable of thinking for themselves. Typically, children will first see their world as a collection of parts and so have a more objective outlook than adults.

Photo: An image of sexual objectification. (Copyright Dmytro Honcharov)
Photo: An image of sexual objectification.
(Copyright Dmytro Honcharov)

In a self-help video on how not to objectify women, Cristen Conger gives this advice, “Pretty simple: Don’t treat women like Barbie dolls.”

When a person is given autonomy, their likes, wants and needs are considered. A Barbie doll is nothing more than a collection of body parts and, as an object, she is also interchangeable.

What cannot be overemphasised, is that men now are arguably also equally objectified. Lust, love and sex are all part of a complex dynamic of the fight for power between the sexes. It is unfortunate that marriage is deeply interwoven into this web and usually suffers the fatal blow.

In The Merchant’s Tale, January has sexual intercourse with his wife May by “labouring” over her “until day dawns”. May, however, is an unsexed object as she does not initiate or participate in the sexual act. May, “obeys, whether it is agreeable to her or loathsome”.

January had declared earlier on that he wanted to “take a young wife” so that he could “ply warm wax with the hands”. January preferred May to be a passive, submissive, sexual object. He did not want her to be sexually responsive or actively responding to his sexual advances as a whole woman would.

Photo: Child marriages are still legal in Trinidad and Tobago.
Photo: Child marriages are still legal in Trinidad and Tobago.

The story captures the essence of a long history of women being bought or bartered into marriage as objects. The power struggle of these women saw them turn to adultery to break the chains of control. Unfortunately, this meant that they lent their bodies to prostitution, effectively continuing the objectification of themselves.

In a review of The Merchant’s Tale by SA Tolliver, the narrator of the tale: “is introduced as a fashionable businessman, a successful financial expert, and a terribly unhappy husband. Critics have painted him as a disillusioned man full of hatred and contempt because of his unhappy relationship with his wife.”

The review further says the Merchant speaks in a frenzy of contempt and hatred. The hatred is for women and the contempt is for himself and all other fools who will not take warning by example.

The Merchant becomes a misogynist because of his own emotional blindness, and eventually translates his hatred of women into a self-hatred.

The fight for marriage has been age old. The products of the war has seen the creation of a deeply rooted culture of sexism, feminism, misogynism and objectification.

The face of these have changed over time, most recently disguised as the liberation of the sexes away from the “fallacies of love and marriage”. However, as with all things noble and true to our higher consciousness, the fight for marriage is far from over.

Photo: A sexually explicit Dolce & Gabbana advertisement.
Photo: A sexually explicit Dolce & Gabbana advertisement.

The current debate on child marriages has been a morose, crass exchange of rebuttals over the right to grant the child the opportunity to marry or not marry along a subjective morally defined age range—vis a vis a grant of the right to let them know when to lust, love and have sex using foolproof, technically defined, sexualised parameters.

And by the grant of a right to marry, I mean the conditions for a sex license. And by conditions I mean age. And by sex license I mean the Marriage Act.

Kindly note, this is not an attempt to polemicise the argument in a way that alienates the rights of the parents or guardianship of children to actively seek to protect them from sexual exploitation. But we must be wary as a society that we are not caught up debating about the right point to place children on an age slider for the purposes of marriage.

We must be wary that we do not objectify the discussion of the readiness of children for marriage and in so doing, weaken one of the greatest foundation blocks of a society.

There is infinitely more to this debate than the butchering currently being rendered in parliament. There is also infinitely more hypocrisies in what is not being addressed than what is.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago's Carib girls.
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s Carib girls.

There is certainly much more to the preparation of a human being for marriage than what can be covered in the legitimisation process. And interestingly, there is more that can be legitimised that isn’t.

It is a sad day for society when the sexualisation of our minds is so great that we cannot approach the discussion of the readiness for marriage in any other way than as a readiness for sex.

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14 comments

  1. Firstly I want to commend the author for advancing the discussion. Recognizing that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, I would have to say that I sincerely hope that Child Marriages become illegal in Trinidad and Tobago. Whilst each religion has its own ideologies for its adherents, a state is secular, and Trinidad and Tobago, though it comprises of people of different religious and ethnic backgrounds, all of whom are respected and can and should find ‘an equal place”, T&T is not a Muslim state. uming the role of devil’s advocate, and being extreme, if we are to keep child marriage legal because the Quran says so,should we then also introduce Sharia Law? Should we permit honour killings? Where do we draw the line? In my view we should not have to draw any line and whilst as a nation we respect our muslim brothers and sisters, our nation is not a muslim state and therefore our leaders need not consider that the Quran permits child marriages. Children have a right to enjoy being a child. No girl – or boy, should be forced to marry an adult. Children should be allowed to play, to have a childhood, to go to school. As a woman, a wife, a mother, I do not understand how a child, 11 or 13 years old could be ready for marriage, could be ready to be emotionally, spiritually, responsible for a spouse and a family. It is difficult for me to believe that a child is prepared or can be prepared to cope with the responsibilities of managing a household, of caring for a home, and of nurturing a family as a wife is meant to do. In short, whilst I commend the author for advancing the discussion (I enjoyed reading her article) to her sentence that: “It is a sad day for society when the sexualisation of our minds is so great that we cannot approach the discussion of the readiness for marriage in any other way than as a readiness for sex.” I would have to say that No, I do not believe a child is ready to have sex, I do not believe a child is fully mature to give meaningful consent to have sex even if the child says “yes”, and finally, I certainly do not believe, given the responsibilities associated with marriage, and with being a wife, that a child, “a child”, is or can ever be, ready for marriage. #MakeChildMarriagesIllegal

  2. I personally do not agree with child marriage. If however we look at it from a religious stand point, Joseph who was widower and old man that already had 6 children was married to Mary when she was only 12. In the Muslim faith the prophet Mohammed married a 6 year old and consummated the marriage when the girl was 12. We have to be carely in the plural society of disregarding the religious beliefs of others because of our culture and value system. In Japan, China, Mexico and states in the US marriage below the age of 14 is allowed. Again I would do that as an adult man but I won’t support a law that disenfranchises other peoples religion. I am not a muslim, but when they react we say they are militant and terrorist. The state is provocative in this regard.

  3. The world is so chaotic, no one really knows how much shit really in the underground. Changing this law age can be a very good security for all young ladies.

  4. This much is true: ‘It is a sad day for society when the sexualisation of our minds is so great that we cannot approach the discussion of the readiness for marriage in any other way than as a readiness for sex.’

  5. Earl Best

    Ms Abdool clearly feels very strongly about the issue and no less clearly has given a lot of thought to it. I just wonder though if, in her attempt to be thorough and to cover all the bases that she feels are not currently being covered, she has not caused us to lose sight of what her key issue is.

    Maybe it has to do with my own limitations but I found myself almost ambushed by her eventual conclusion that “It is a sad day for society when the sexualisation of our minds is so great that we cannot approach the discussion of the readiness for marriage in any other way than as a readiness for sex.”

    • If you felt ambushed, it had far less to do with your limitations and far more to do with my inability to develop my points. In retrospect, the assessment you have offered is quite accurate. I did not keep my key issue central when developing my points. Thanks for the insight.

    • The author may be correct considering that the Opposition, and religious leaders in favour of the status quo keep asking what is government doing about underage sex, suggesting that the Govt cannot deal with the issue of child marriage without dealing with underage sex.

      • That’s a small part of it. Consider that there’s both consensual sex and forced sex under the age of 18. Government cannot deal with underage sex. Government can only legislate and prosecute sex crimes. There are discrepancies in legislation in this regard.

  6. Too much big words for me

    • After I thought about this for a while, I realized you were right. The topic may be too highly charged and simpler language may be more appropriate.

  7. This article highlights the gross underworld of child marriage that many ignore or are unaware of. The blatant disregard of females as human beings but as property to be used when and as needed.

  8. This child marriage law is part of the same bullshit, patriarchal culture that rapes and murders our, friends, sisters and mothers.

    Men like Sat should not be pronouncing on what women/girls can or cannot do. Seriously, someone needs to shut him down and get him off the airwaves. Its the words of such men carried on the air and by media that in a small way come together to build up walls of male violence and disrespect that come crashing down on our women and that are so toxic to our men.

    The country would be better off without Sat. This isn’t about culture and tradition. Its about dirty old men wanting to have sex with 14 year girls. He should be thrown in jail for trying to continue forcing such slavery on young girls.