How can a 13 year old be 4 months pregnant in a country where child marriage is illegal? This question was in our heads last week when the sad news of this girl’s demise made the headlines. The details weren’t released yet, but pretty soon it all started to make sense. The young girl was allowed to be married religiously to a 19 year old man and the parents didn’t find anything wrong with that weird arrangement. Thirteen year olds getting married isn’t something you’d think would exist in Mauritius, it sounds more like something that would happen in India or Pakistan, and yet, here we are with blood on our hands.
The parents aren’t the only ones to blame, everyone who was aware of this marriage should be held accountable. It goes against basic human rights to deny a girl a proper education and security in her adolescent life. Adolescence is the most turbulent time in a person’s growth, and to let someone get married at that young age is akin to child abuse.
The fact that a 19 year old man had sex with a 13 year old under the odd pretext that the marriage somehow made it okay, is alarming. What kind of society watches this kind of depravity unfold and does nothing? Rumors have been swirling that the young girl was a domestic abuse victim as well. Imagine having your whole life snatched at the tender age of 13 without a promise of a better future.
In the past, young girls getting married was no issue at all, because in the past our life expectancy was quite low and technology hadn’t yet surfaced to help us understand ourselves and our needs better. When thinkers and scientists discussed the particular stage in a person’s life now known as ”adolescence”, they emphasized how individuals undergoing changes after puberty were prone to developing feelings of uncertainty and self-awareness that would impinge on their logical thinking ability.
But in Mauritius, to read about girls as young as 12 getting pregnant is something of a routine. Not just because our society hasn’t implemented a healthy sex awareness program, but also because parents and politicians do not cater to adolescent girls, let alone adolescents. Adolescent girls are left to fend for themselves whilst not truly understanding the full scope of sexuality. The dearth of public awareness regarding sexuality is often highlighted in a society like ours, in which pretending that sex doesn’t exist is our go-to way to deal with those problems.
Ruwaidha’s story wouldn’t have been this tragic if the parents took responsibility early on and educated her, instead of forcibly molding her into an adult and allowing her to experience marital life at the tender age of 13. This isn’t an issue of religion, culture or teenage passion. This is an issue of bad parenting and it must be addressed.