How do you feel about young girls who become child brides? If a young woman was tricked into marriage, raped by her husband and tried to escape a violent attack by killing him, should she face the death penalty?
A Young Sudanese Girl
In Sudan, 16-year-old Noura Hussein was forced by her parents to marry her 35-year-old distant cousin. Instead of going through with it, Noura fled from her home in Khartoum and stayed with her aunt for a few years to continue with her education.
After graduating high school, she had thought the prospect of marriage was no longer an issue. Three years later, Noura’s parents convinced her to come home with the promise of no marriage to her cousin, but she was tricked and forced to marry her cousin in April regardless of her protestations. Noura felt trapped and hopeless so she went along with the wedding. Her dream of becoming a teacher was dashed. In addition to participating at a wedding that was not of her choice, she had to find ways to thwart her husband from consummating their marriage.
Noura refused to have sex with her husband for several days after the wedding, but on the ninth night, he had his male relatives hold her down while he raped her. When he tried to have sex with her again the following night, and she refused, he threatened her with a knife. While struggling with the knife, Noura was able to wrestle it away from her husband and stab him to death before he could rape her again.
Instead of protecting Noura, her father turned her into the police and she confessed to stabbing her husband to death. She was sent to jail and because marital rape is not seen as a crime in Sudan, the court sentenced her to death, stating her action to be criminal, not self-defense.
Noura’s death sentence has garnered global attention that resulted in overturning the death sentence, but she was still sent to prison for five years and ordered to pay a fine of $19,000 to her deceased husband’s family. How was this just? Wasn’t it enough that her family betrayed her by forcing her to marry a stranger, only to be raped for not acquiescing to have sex with him as he thought was his right as her husband? Yes, she stabbed her husband, but for Noura, it was her only way out of a hopeless and dangerous situation. She should not be condemned for trying to save her own life.
I understand that every country has traditions and customs, but how can forcing a young girl to marry at the age of 16 by her family be agreeable, even enforced by law in that country? According to the non-profit Girls Not Brides, 1 in 3 Sudanese girls is married before the age of 18. How can any girl develop their potential if they’re forced into a situation where they have no rights and are treated like property?
As a mom, I can’t imagine my daughter married at the age of 16, let alone forcing her into a marriage where it wasn’t her choice. Yes, I’m coming at this as a Mom with a Western perspective, but also as someone who values a person’s worth. I believe that every country’s traditions and customs should be respected, but if it means endangering the life of a child or young woman, then I don’t support it. Is she guilty of murdering her rapist or was it self-defense? In my opinion, Noura did what she thought was necessary to ensure that her husband did not rape her again or endanger her life.
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Photo Credit: Wikimedia
On Saturday night, I had the privilege of hosting three of my 13 year-old son’s friends for a sleep-over. They are lovely boys, and all I have to do is feed them and ignore them. I don’t mention things like showers or teeth-brushing, and in return they pretty much keep to themselves and don’t expect me to converse about Minecraft, Clash of Clans or Team Fortress II.
I teased them a little about not letting girls in while I drove my 9 year-old to a birthday party. I didn’t make a big deal of things when one of them smuggled in cola. I laughed with them, when on my return from the party drop-off, they were trying to stuff MacDonalds packaging into my kitchen rubbish bin. They pushed their limits with bedtime, of course. And they declined the offer of mattresses to sleep on (too much work for them to get them into our lounge) and slept on the carpet…. because, they’re 13 and their bodies still bend in ways mine don’t.
It was both innocent and, I felt, an appropriate mix of mischief and compliance.
Then, on Sunday, I heard of other 13 year-olds who had been in online chat rooms, talking about anal-sex and rape. Not in general terms, but in…. I shall be doing this to you terms…. These are kids who come from great homes and who have very loving families. I immediately thought: there but the Grace of God go I.
Children easily get caught up with what their friends are doing, or those who they emulate. My 13 year-old could have easily been one of those involved and I have no doubt all three of my boys will make stupid mistakes as they move from childhood to adulthood. Just not this time. Thank goodness.
The biggest worry, for me, was that there was at least one unidentified person in the chat-group who could, quite literally, have been anyone. It’s probably another 13 year-old, a friend or acquaintance but it could just as easily be a predator who was scoping for a target. And that makes it all the more scary.
The same is true of a local man who is hanging around liquor stores offering to buy alcohol and cigarettes for underage kids, 14 and 15 year-olds. He does this for a while. Then he offers drugs. Then it’s parties at his house. This is a whole different scenario from the stranger-danger I taught my boys when they were small.
We’re talking about people who are consciously befriending those kids who want to seem older than they are, and who are ready to break rules. They are grooming relationships before they pounce. They are feeding the teenage need to belong and the teenage need to experiment and do things that their parents may not approve of.
So we hit the teenage years, and now I find parenting is not so black and white.
No, I don’t want my kids drinking alcohol or smoking but do I buy them a few beers to take to a party, so that creeps don’t target them and they go behind my back? No, I don’t want my kids smoking pot but if they choose to, should I allow it when they know who grew it, rather than have them turn to those who lace it with P?
No, I don’t want my kids to be suggesting they will rape someone or perform anal sex on them, but I also don’t want them to be excluded from other things their peers are doing.
Suddenly, a conversation about Minecraft seems pretty appealing afterall.
What do you do or have you done to deal with these aspects of parenting?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer and mother of three, rapidly growing boys in New Zealand, Karyn Willis.
The image used in this post is attributed to JD Hancock and holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.
Jane Mosbacher Morris,
Founder of To the Market
What is To the Market and how did it get started?
TO THE MARKET | Survivor-made Goods (TTM) combines the powers of commerce and storytelling to empower the world’s most courageous survivor populations. We’ve developed a three-pronged social enterprise model that we believe reflects the needs of organizations employing survivors of abuse, conflict, or disease to help ensure that these organizations can continue to provide steady work to the survivors.
Our goal is that the survivors in our network eventually achieve economic independence, meaning that they aren’t dependent on someone or something else.
Our model includes (1) promoting survivor-made goods via our multiple distribution channels, including pop-up shops, custom sourcing, retail partnerships, and our online marketplace; (2) offering a platform for survivors and their champions to share their stories through TTM’s Stories and Huffington Post blogs; and (3) providing tailored services, such as trend forecasting and basic mental health resources, to our partners to improve production and management.
I started TTM after a trip to Kolkata, India revealed a way to impact the most vulnerable survivor communities by offering them an opportunity to earn an income.
I saw the light in the eyes of the survivor turned artisans when they were given the chance to earn—they wanted the dignity of work. I began speaking to incredible people all over the globe (including in the U.S.) who had created social enterprises to employ different survivor populations, usually by employing them to produce handicrafts.
I heard really positive feedback about the model of employing survivors (and all of the incredible benefits to the self-esteem and trajectory of the survivor and his or her children). However, I also heard about the challenges of making this model work—TTM aims to help augment these challenges.
Who are the artisans at To the Market?
TTM identifies and teams up with existing organizations currently employing survivors of abuse, conflict, or disease. We call these organizations “local partners”. Local partners consist of non-profits and for-profit social enterprises that have already set up shop, hired, and trained survivors to produce products.
TTM focuses on certain types of survivor populations. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to; survivors of abuse, such as survivors of domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse, and human trafficking; survivors of conflict, such as war widows, refugees, or persons living in conflict/post-conflict states ; or survivors of disease, including populations living with HIV/AIDS, leprosy, or physical disabilities.
We have partners across the globe, including in the U.S., South America, Africa, and Asia.
Do you see a pattern in consumers’ behavior when it comes to shopping responsibly?
I think there is a desire to shop more responsibly, but it often comes down to what people can afford. I am really proud of the fact that our local partners make a variety of products at all different price points—on-trend bracelets for under twenty dollars to timeless cashmere scarves for several hundred dollars.
Can you share a personal story that you think best represents the mission of the online shop?
I recently spent nearly a month in Nepal and India visiting with many of our local partners. I was particularly reminded of how transformational economic independence can be to these survivors when I spent time with their children—their daughters, especially. Most of the survivors we work with are women. When the women achieve economic independence, their daughters are so much less likely to be exploited. We recently wrote about a shelter in New Delhi, India that employs HIV/AIDs infected and affected women. You can see the video about the shelter and read about it on our Stories blog here.
How did you get involved with this work?
I began my career in counterterrorism with a focus on the intersection of women and security. Much of my mission was to try to elevate the role of women in national security-related issues, but I consistently found that women with some form of economic independence had so much more leverage in their family, community, and country than those with none.
That (five year) experience got the wheels turning quickly about the importance of economic independence in empowering vulnerable populations. When I went to work for the McCain Institute on human trafficking, I really saw how vital it was for survivors of some sort of trauma (whether it be abuse, conflict, or disease) to have access to some income.
It brings me extraordinary joy to be a part of the life-changing process of gaining even the slightest bit of independence.
What are your favorite picks for this holiday season?
- For Mom: I love this 100% cashmere scarf hand spun by master spinners in the Kashmir Valley! Each scarf contains the women’s initials that made it.
- For Dad: I love this red spice and merlot trivet. It’s the perfect size for cuff links, receipts, or coins and is neutral enough to sit comfortably on a nightstand or office desk. It’s hand-woven by craftswomen in Rwanda.
- For college kids: I have to suggest the patrice signature bag, which I am currently carrying by No41. It has two major points of impact!
- First, it provides a stable job and sustainable income to a young woman transitioning into a life of independence from living in an orphanage in Rwanda.
- SECOND (and perfect for the college student), it provides 240 meals to a secondary student in Rwanda!
- For kids: I love these brightly colored elephant ornaments (in pink or blue) hand-sewn by women in the Ivory Coast. Pink and blue patterns make it easy to pick for a boy or girl.
- For the office or book/dinner club gift exchange: I selected either a Sari Coin Purse hand-sewn by human trafficking survivors in Kolkata, India or this Hope Ornament pounded out of recycled metal oil drums in Haiti. Even if you don’t have a tree, you can hang this Hope sign up to encourage you! Both come in under $10, the perfect price point for small gifts.
- I am also including a couple “splurge on yourself “ items because I feel like most moms that I know only spend on others! I’ve included the Holiday Festive skirt, because it’s the perfect pattern for this time of year and also because it’s made by stay-at-home moms in Belize who are caring for sick children. Or, this Soledad Peru bag. The Suede straps and bottom make it strong enough to carry six wine bottles (yes, please!). The bag was made by women weavers in a valley deeply scarred by the Shining Path.
How can World Moms help spread the word about shopping responsibly this holiday season and beyond?
What a great question! Helping to get the word out about social enterprises like TO THE MARKET via social media and blogging is a tremendous help, in itself. Someone doesn’t have to have a huge following, either! Just telling your family or friends that these social enterprises exist makes a difference. So much of why so many social enterprises struggle is because they don’t have the marketing budget that big box retailers have to tell their story. There is nothing more flattering (or effective) than a personal referral!
This is an original interview with To the Market founder, Jane Mosbacher Morris, for World Moms Blog. You can learn more about the good work and great products To The Market sells by visiting their website (http://www.tothemarket.com/goods)
The image in this post is used by permission from To the Market.
It’s not often that I get riled up over things that happen in the news, especially in Canada. Yes, we have some outrageous things happening here, but for the most part, Canadian society is reasonably civilized.
However, a story that’s currently unfolding has me feeling a little sick. It is the story of Jian Ghomeshi, a popular radio show host who has just been fired amid a storm of allegations. (more…)