Tag Archives: Dowry

Zimbabwe Child Brides Fight Back in Court

Across sub-Saharan Africa, 40 percent of women are married as children.

Across sub-Saharan Africa, 40 percent of women are married as children.

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Two former child brides have taken Zimbabwe’s government to court in a ground-breaking bid to get child marriages declared illegal and unconstitutional.

Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi say child marriage, which is rife in Zimbabwe, is a form of child abuse which traps girls in lives of poverty and suffering.

“I’ve faced so many challenges. My husband beat me. I wanted to stay in school but he refused. It was very, very terrible,” said Tsopodzi, a mother of one, who was married at 15.

“I want to take this action to make a difference,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Harare on Tuesday. “There are a lot of children getting married.”

Data published last year indicates one third of girls in Zimbabwe marry before their 18th birthday and 5 percent before they turn 15.

Child marriage deprives girls of education and opportunities, jeopardizes their health and increases the risks of exploitation, sexual violence, domestic abuse and death or serious injury in childbirth.

In their statements to the Constitutional Court, Tsopodzi and Mudzuru, now 19 and 20, say Zimbabwe’s Marriage Act is discriminatory because it sets the minimum age at 16 for girls and 18 for boys. The Customary Marriage Act sets no minimum age.

They say the law should be brought into line with Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution as well as regional and international treaties banning child marriage.

The 2013 constitution says every child under 18 has the right to parental care, education and protection from “economic and sexual exploitation”.

It does not set a minimum marriage age, but states that no one should be forced to marry against their will and indicates that 18 is the minimum age for starting a family.

VICIOUS CIRCLE

Poverty is the driving force behind child marriage in Zimbabwe. Parents often marry girls off so they have one less mouth to feed. Dowry payments may be a further incentive.

Some communities also see child marriage as a way of protecting girls from having premarital sex.

In her affidavit, Mudzuru described how child marriage and poverty create a vicious circle.

“Young girls who marry early and often in poor families are then forced to produce young children in a sea of poverty and the cycle begins again,” she stated.

Mudzuru, who was married at 16 and had two children before she was 18, said her life was “hell” and she spent her days trapped in drudgery.

“My life is really tough. Raising a child when you are a child yourself is hard,” she said by phone from her home in Harare. “I should be going to school.”

The girls’ lawyer, former finance minister Tendai Biti, presented the legal challenge in January.

Beatrice Savadye, who heads rights group ROOTS which is backing the ground-breaking case, said it had generated a lot of interest both inside Zimbabwe and in other countries in the region.

She said it was unclear when the court would give its decision, but that it had to rule within six months.

Globally, some 15 million girls are married off every year. Across sub-Saharan Africa, 40 percent of women are married as children.

 

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Brides from Vietnam up for Sale in China

Brides from Vietnam up for Sale in China
“Don’t cry on Singles’ Day. Go to Vietnam and find yourself a bride!”
This was the unusual slogan used by group buying website 55tuan.com as part of a special promotion, which offered a free trip to Vietnam for one lucky person, provided he married a Vietnamese woman.
The online activity was launched on November 6, five days before Singles’ Day, which falls on November 11 every year (symbolized by its date, 11.11). On this day, young Chinese mockingly celebrate their single status.
The offer to “group buy” a Vietnamese bride struck a chord with single men in China, as the cost of marrying a Chinese woman continues to grow and bachelors lament their dwindling chances to find a mate. Nearly 30,000 people had participated in the lottery.
Central government departments also took note, but for other reasons entirely. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security both issued warnings about the risks of finding Vietnamese wives through matchmakers, which is the most common method for Chinese men to find a Vietnamese bride.
The risks go both ways. Buyers may end up swindled out of money or with an unwilling wife, and the women involved in these schemes risk being swallowed by people-smuggling and prostitution rackets.
These illegal matchmaking services have long existed in China and a lack of action from authorities against agents has resulted in the expansion of the industry, which now ranges from relatively above board, all the way to the bowels of organized crime.
High Cost of Marriage
A representative surnamed Xu from 55yuan.com told the Global Times that the website was not cooperating with matchmaking brokers, and simply offered the winner reimbursement of trip costs as long as he provided an authentic marriage certificate with a Vietnamese woman.
The move was obviously a clever publicity stunt, but it did demonstrate that there is a strong market in China for marriages with Vietnamese women, and that despite warnings from international anti-trafficking agencies that high demand from China creates a market for people-smuggling, there isn’t a stigma attached.
The lottery described Vietnamese women as “virtuous” and “traditional” and said they were not as materialistic as their Chinese counterparts. That is also what Ren Xuan (pseudonym), a 30-year-old man preparing to travel to Vietnam, thinks. After several frustrating blind dates and increasing pressure from his family to get married, Ren made the decision to find a Vietnamese wife. “Young women in China just gave me the cold shoulder as they were disappointed with my economic situation. I don’t think I stand a chance of finding a wife here,” said Ren, who works at a private company in Xiangyang, Central China’s Hubei Province.
He said that after reading media reports that described marriage to Vietnamese women as “bliss,” he began saving.
A report released in September by a domestic dating website, which polled 90 million of its members about their views on marriage, showed that 68 percent of single women care about the wealth of their prospective spouses.
Legal Gray Zone
The practice of finding Vietnamese women isn’t new, but previously the market was largely confined to migrant workers or farmers from poor villages. But as with most markets in China, things have changed.
“We have all kinds of customers, from farmers, white-collar workers, and even people who have returned from overseas,” said a staff member surnamed Qiu from a Guangzhou-based matchmaking agency, which specializes in blind dates between Chinese men and Vietnamese women.
These matchmaking brokers charge each customer 30,000 to 60,000 yuan ($4,900 to $9,850), which covers costs such as a dowry, a wedding feast and visas. In addition, traveling expenses and other fees can reach up to 15,000 yuan, and 2,000 to 5,000 yuan is expected to be given to the bride’s parents. Chinese men usually travel in a group with an agent and pick out a Vietnamese girl they like.
But this seemingly cozy arrangement is not without risks. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on November 9, stating that Chinese citizens are often cheated in these schemes.
Chen Shiqu, director of the Ministry of Public Security’s anti-human trafficking office, claimed on November 11 that Chinese marriage agencies are not allowed to source spouses from other countries and it is illegal for individuals to engage in international matchmaking for profit. As it is also illegal in Vietnam, people involved in the trade have nowhere to turn in the event of a dispute.
However, brokers remain unfazed. “We know the service is not allowed on the Chinese mainland, but it’s not clearly forbidden. If it was, there is no way that our service would have reliably sustained itself for nine years,” Qiu said, implying that the authorities tacitly consent to the service.
Qiu has a point. Online searches for media reports of these kinds of matchmaking agents being arrested yield a curious lack of results. “The punishment for such matchmaking brokers is just confiscating their business income and the Criminal Law doesn’t clearly define the conduct,” Hu Zhouxiong, a lawyer specializing in marriage cases involving foreigners with the Guangdong Bohao Law firm, told the Global Times, noting that the light punishment had resulted in the proliferation of these matchmakers.
He noted that the huge demand for the service is also a reason why the agents are not strictly punished. But that isn’t to say the industry isn’t causing arrests.
Dark Trade
The Ho Chi Minh-based newspaper Thanh Nien reported in September that two Chinese and seven Vietnamese nationals were arrested by Vietnamese police for trafficking women to China and selling them into marriage.
Media reports in recent years have also revealed that a number of Vietnamese brides had fled their Chinese husbands and were later caught and resold to other husbands, indicating they had been kidnapped.
“The agents were engaging in human trafficking when the Vietnamese women ‘changed hands,’ but Chinese men have no way of knowing whether the girls were smuggled into the country or not,” said Hu.
China is the largest market for people smugglers sourcing brides from Vietnam. According to a 2011 report on the trafficking of women and children from Vietnam, compiled by the British Embassy in Hanoi, “between 2005 and 2009 approximately 6,000 women and children were identified as being trafficked from Vietnam … Some 3,190 were trafficked to China for the purposes of forced marriage, or to be sexually exploited in brothels.”
But this number is not the total. The same report acknowledged the difficulty of calculating exact numbers, and pointed out that “victims have been forced to phone their families to reassure them they are well and have legal work, so that relatives do not report family members missing and alert the authorities.”

Ren, however, is eschewing the help of agents and is attempting it on his own. While this avoids supporting the people-smuggling trade, it poses its own challenges as he doesn’t know the language. “I have no other way, but I guess I can just give it a try,” Ren said.

India: One Woman Killed Every Hour Over Dowry

The National Crime Records Bureau says 8,233 women were killed across India last year because of disputes over dowry payments given by the bride’s family to the groom or his family at the time of marriage.

Brides sit together during a mass marriage in Ahmadabad, India.

Crime statistics and a Gender Scorecard compiled by women’s rights activists have put chilling new perspective on an age-old social ill in India: Bride-burning and other “dowry crimes” take the life of a woman every hour.

Despite a rapidly expanding middle class, enviable economic growth and measurable strides in modernization since India’s 1947 independence, dowry deaths continue to rise year on year, as does the related plague of “cruelty by husband and relatives” — the crime defined as torture committed against women in pursuit of more marriage bounty from their parents.

India’s National Crime Records Bureau last week reported that 8,233 Indian women were killed in 2012 in dowry-related violence, or nearly one per hour. The incidence of dowry deaths grew by nearly 3% over the previous five years, and torture at the hands of a husband or family increased by 5.4%, with 99,135 cases reported by survivors in 2011.

The scope of the problems is likely to be wider than the statistics suggest, as many women and their parents are reluctant to seek prosecution for fear of scandal that would destroy their other daughters’ chances of getting married, analysts say.

Sociologists and women’s rights advocates attribute the disturbingly persistent trends to rising consumerism in India, where once-scarce and unaffordable goods like appliances and motor vehicles are now available but still beyond the reach of many families.

Bride-burning and other fatal attacks over disappointing dowries began tapering off after independence as education and income levels began a slow rising trend, said Vishakha Desai, a former president of the Asia Society and professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

In 1961, Parliament passed the Dowry Prohibition Act, banning the payment of dowries as a condition for marriage. But the law is widely ignored, said Desai, especially among those newly elevated from poverty to the middle class.

“What has happened in the last 25-30 years as India has become much more conscious of material possessions is that it has come back with a vengeance,” she said of the fatal abuses. “You have dowry demands for things like a refrigerator or a motor scooter. It’s no longer about jewelry or things a woman could hold on to as her own.”

For centuries tradition dictated that the bride’s family provide her with gold,  jewelry and a trousseau as she left her parental home to live with her in-laws, a way of ensuring her a degree of economic security, said Desai.

In many ways modernization has made the problem worse, she noted. Online dating services in India make it easier for parents to check out the social and economic status of potential spouses for their children and vet their preferred candidates before the prospective couples even meet.

The persistent abuse of young brides by in-laws seeking more dowry is just one of numerous dangers faced by women that has been detailed in the 2013 Gender Scorecard compiled by Radha Kumar of the Delhi Policy Group think tank.

Another disturbing trend is the falling “sex ratio” in India, where there are now only 940 women for each 1,000 men because of a cultural preference for boys over girls. The gender determination now available from ultrasound early in a pregnancy apparently has led to more terminations of female fetuses, analysts have concluded.

The Gender Scorecard also noted that prosecution and conviction rates for crimes against women are abysmally low and discourage already reluctant victims from seeking justice. Convictions are secured in only 24% of rape cases and the rate is 33% for those accused of killing women in the course of trying to extort more dowry from their families, Kumar said in a televised discussion on violence against women on NDTV.

Suman Nalwa, of the Delhi Police unit responsible for crimes against women and children, told the Press Trust of India that violence by those in pursuit of dowries is seen at all economic levels.

“The higher socio-economic strata is equally involved in such practices,” she said. “Even the highly educated class of our society do not say no to dowry. It runs deep into our social system.”

Ranjana Kumari, another women’s rights activist, laid the blame for barbaric attacks on young brides to  a “culture of greed” that pervades all levels of Indian society.

“Marriages have become commercialized. It’s like a business proposition where the groom and his family make exorbitant demands,” she was quoted as saying by the Times of India. “And the wealthier the family, the more outrageous the demands.”

6-Year-Old Indian Rape Victim Ordered To Marry Rapist’s Son

A caste council, or panchayat, ordered a child rape victim to marry the rapist's son

A caste council, or panchayat, ordered a child rape victim to marry the rapist’s son

A disturbing development just occurred in India, a country rife with the problem of rape in recent months.  In the northwestern state of Rajasthan, a child, raped by a middle-aged man, was ordered by her caste to marry the rapist’s child son.  This event occurred even as the child was raped again by the same person during negotiations.  Now police have arrested the rapist and are investigating the victim’s caste.

The incident occurred in the village of Keshavpura, located in the southeastern part of Rajasthan, India.  The child, a 6-year-old girl, was raped about two weeks ago by a 40-year-old man only known as Kailash.  After the incident was reported to the local caste, the elders refused to involve the police.  Instead, they called a council, known as a panchayat, to discuss the matter and iron out a resolution.

However, rather than punishing Kailash, the panchayat ordered the rape victim to marry the rapist’s 8-year-old son, possibly because the rape victim’s purity had been destroyed by the rapist and her standing only maintained by marrying into the family.  The parents, as well as the rapist, objected to the caste’s order.  The parents did not want to be traumatized further by being forced to have this rapist into their life, and would likely have to pay a dowry, or fee to the groom.  As the parents and Kailash tried to negotiate with the caste on the matter, the rapist raped the girl again on Wednesday.

After hearing about the second rape, social activists in Rajasthan brought the girl and her parents from Keshavpura to the local police station in nearby Mahaveer Nagar.  Filing a police complaint, Kailash was arrested on the charge of rape.  In addition, the caste elders and members of the panchayat are now facing investigation for failing to report this incident with the police.

This child rape incident comes as the nation is reeling from repeated cases of rape and gang rape against women throughout the country.  Just today, four men accused of raping a young journalist in Mumbai in August were sentenced to jail.