02/14/2011— A proposal for a new law that would punish forced marriage is under discussion in the Congress of Mexico, which if disobeyed would result in up to 18 years in prison. Many human rights organizations believe that the freedom to love is a human right that should be protected and granted to every individual. It is also said that forced marriage creates a relationship between a man and woman where the woman is treated like “an object and the man her executioner.” In this type of relationship, men feel compelled to treat women like slaves, and the women feel as though it is their obligation to stay with the man, because she has either been forced into the relationship by her family or purchased. According to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, until 2009 in Mexico, there were 130,000 marriages that involved individuals between 12 and 16 years of age. The Network for the Rights of the Child says this has happened because in most of the country, “civil codes allow for the marriage with adolescents.”
Forced marriage is also a custom among some indigenous communities in Mexico. This type of marriage is an ancient tradition where originally the man was supposed to give a dowry to the family as a token of appreciation. The tradition has now become abused and has extended past the communities which originally carried out this custom to foreigners and men in search of a young bride. The United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF) says that early marriage violates the Convention of the Human Rights of the Child because it “carries forced labor, slavery, prostitution, and violence against the victims.” It also says that of the 600,000 marriages that take place in Mexico every year, 20% of those are among couples who are between the ages of 15 and 19. This is higher than the Latin American average of 11.5%.
The idea of purchased wives has also created a situation where the families, who are often times living in poverty, are the ones who arrange the deal, by accepting dowries for their daughters. The women who are purchased are often put into a situation of marriage at a very young age and usually live with a man who creates economic stability for her. The woman feels she needs this man because he has provided for her. In a lot of cases, the sold women are taken to foreign countries and used for prostitution and the families never hear from her again. In attempts to eradicate this problem, not only in Mexico but all over the world, a lawyer, Neil Arias suggests that better access to education is key by stating that women with more education are more likely to refuse to be sold to a man, as in most cases the woman lives in fear of reporting her “buyer.”
Alcantara, Liliana. “Matrimonia forzado: del ritual al abuso.” El Universal. 14 de Febrero, 2011.