Child Brides and Grooms
National Geographic recently had a disturbing article on child brides that got me thinking about early marriages in the Charedi community. There’s two flavors of this: the Chasidish variety, like the daughter of a family friend, Shaindy, who married her husband when she was seventeen and he was nineteen; and the “kids at risk” variety, which my brother illustrated, marrying his girlfriend when he was eighteen years old, in order to be able to have sex with her without losing his family and community.
I wonder if it matters. These aren’t twelve year old brides and grooms like those in the NatGeo article, and although divorce in the religious community is a gigantically more burdensome process than it is in the secular world, it isn’t as impossible as it might be in the backwaters of Yemen.
But still, it bothers me. I’m bothered by the belief that an eighteen year old man or woman could know enough about themselves to select* a life partner – it seems to assume a static-ness, a lack of personal development. Human’s brains aren’t fully developed at seventeen or eighteen – locking someone into a lifetime partnership seems to explicitly restrict their growth potential – which is perhaps, the point – each spouse acts as a moderating or policing force to ensure conformity, to ensure development into adulthood happens within the community’s acceptable boundaries.
I feel a little guilty passing judgment – I got married at the age of twenty six – very young by the standards of most of my secular friends. And my husband was only twenty three. Before we got engaged, we talked a lot about the options of marriage versus other forms of relationship (and we still do), and perhaps in the somewhat deliberate choosing, there is an act of will and conscious choice which redeems our young ages. Or perhaps we were/are still bound by the norms of the worlds from which we came.
*I know most of the people I’m speaking about it have little to no say in their actual spouse (which is a whole other kettle of fish). So perhaps – ‘that someone else could select for them’.Printable Version