Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Polygamy, and social responsibility to children

marjorie says...

The video segment in this ABC interview with polygamous women inside the Zion ranch is pretty fascinating. This case really brings into stark relief the question of parental rights versus those of children, and to what extent society should act to protect children.

Let's face it, this group of people is being judged based on a larger group's social norms regarding marriage and sexuality. What is and isn't abuse is debatable for many. Personally, I think it's tragic that young girls are being raised in this manner. It's pretty telling in the video clip when one woman won't answer the question asked: are 14, 15, 16 girls being married to older men? She refused to answer, at least in the clip shown. And it makes me cringe. I have a gut reaction to think that no child should be indoctrinated in the manner pursued by this group.

But is a young woman who freely chooses this lifestyle being abused simply because these values were inculcated in her from infancy? Given an answer of yes, if she never left the group over the course of her life would she ever recognize the abuse? In the face of the seeming happiness of the women shown in the video clip, I can see that my attitude is subjective, reflective perhaps of an impulse toward cultural hegemony that in theory I reject.

This particular instance is a hard one...and there are going to be some very tough legal questions for the Texas courts to deal with. It's clear to me that this group has to reject the imposition of marriage on young teenage girls in order for it to continue to exist. It's an adjustment they have to make if for no other reason than that they live under the rule of law of the United States. The teenage years are a time of growth and change, and young people need the space in which to make their own decision about what their future will look like. One of the ways that our society has decided to provide this opportunity to young women is to prevent them from being forced into marriage. And at 14, 15, 0r 16, force is what it is.