14-year-old jailed for escaping arranged marriage ceremony in Mexico


A 14-year-old girl was jailed last week after running away to escape the wedding ceremony she was bought for.

The girl, who was only identified in the local press as Anayeli “N”, was supposed to marry a neighbor in the state of Guerrero in Mexico whose family had offered a sum of 200,000 pesos ( approx. 9,300 USD) to buy it hand in marriage.

Anayeli’s mother had accepted the payment, and the neighboring family had hired a gang, slaughtered a cow, and prepared a wedding feast. which will take place last Monday. In total, the parents of the future groom spent around 56,000 pesos (US $ 2,600) on the preparation for the wedding.

But Anayeli, who is a member of the indigenous Mixtec people, had none of it. Early on the morning of the “big day”, she escaped from her family’s home in the village of Joya Real, in southwestern Mexico, and took refuge in the neighboring house of her 15-year-old friend. Alfredo “N.

“She thought it was her older sister who was going to get married, she never thought it would be her because she was underage,” said Abel Barrera, director of the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center based in Guerrero, in an interview with The Beast of the Day.

When Anayeli discovered that it was not her sister but herself who was the future wife, “she preferred to run away without telling anyone, regardless of whether her mother had already accepted. [on the price] and expenses paid by the father of the groom, ”Barrera said.

“None of this interested the girl. She just wanted to preserve her freedom, her life and her security, ”he said. Barrera said that while technically illegal under Mexican law since 2019, arranged marriages for minors are still frequent between families living in rural areas.

Once a girl is purchased, she is “treated like an object” by the family who paid for her, Barrera said. “She has to work, she has to cook, she has to do the housework, she has to go to the fields, and if she starts working as a farm worker, the money will not be paid to her, but to her father-in-law”, Barrera said.

Marina Reyna Aguilar, executive director of the Guerrero Association Against Violence Against Women, told the Daily Beast that it took a lot of courage for Anayeli to accept social norms by running away and refusing to be “part of it. ‘a tradition which forces underage girls in their community to marry with the consent of their relatives in exchange for money [or] goods or things such as beer, cows or other animals.

“She barely spoke a word to us, most of the time she was silent.“

With the married child missing, the groom’s family asked Joya Real community police officers to locate Anayeli. They swept the small village, found Anayeli and Alfredo in hiding and took them to jail.

“In the [indigenous] community, no one is watching over the rights of girls, ”said Barrera, who is also an anthropologist specializing in local indigenous culture. “It’s the men who do justice, the older men, because there is a patriarchal culture. Women cannot stand up for girls because they would also be imprisoned. “

During the night they spent in jail, the two minors were told by police that Anayeli had to submit to the wedding or repay the $ 2,600 the groom’s family had already spent on the wedding and parties. related.

Community policing is an auxiliary, independent form of law enforcement intended to provide security in remote areas of Mexico where there is little or no federal or state police presence. As such, officers in small towns and villages sometimes act unilaterally because they do not report to any higher authority, Aguilar said. She accused community police of abusing their power by “normalizing customs that violate the human rights of girls and women,” despite existing laws prohibiting underage marriage.

“The community police, when they decided to lock up Anayeli, [are] ignoring a legal framework that they must respect and apply … By not complying, it turns them into criminal offenders, ”said Aguilar.

As of Tuesday morning, members of the Tlachinollan de Barrera center, state police and representatives of the regional prosecutor’s office had all arrived in Joya Real to ensure the teens were released from prison. For their own safety, the two were then remanded in custody as part of Mexico’s Comprehensive Family Development System. [known as DIF for its acronym in Spanish].

“His opinion is misogynistic and sexist.“

“Anayeli’s case is very complicated,” said Neil Arias Vitinio, a lawyer who helped secure the girl’s release. According to Vitinio, one of the complicating factors is that Anayeli only speaks the Mixtec language known as Tu’un Savi.

“The situation with her was very difficult because she is a monolingual and illiterate girl who does not even have a minimum of education,” said Vitinio. “Talking to her, we realized that she was very shy. She barely spoke a word to us, most of the time she was silent.

Center director Barrera said “all of this needs to be understood in the context of extreme poverty” among marginalized indigenous communities that have been neglected by the state.

“The government has forgotten these communities. Here there is no way to study, there is no way to find a job, to develop any artistic ability, ”Barrera said, adding that Anayeli’s father had recently been murdered by unknown assailants, leaving his mother desperate to defend the family.

Arranged marriages are often seen as the only way out, failing which “girls are condemned to live in these deplorable conditions,” he said.

A recent report from a Spanish newspaper El Pais indicates that “thousands”Underage girls across Mexico are sold into forced marriages every year. Because the girls are then forced into forced labor and unwanted pregnancies, El Pais compared the practice to that of “slavery”. An infamous case that came to light earlier this year involved a woman who had been bought from her own father for just one bottle of mescal when she was a 10 year old girl.

Vitinio, who often provides legal advice to victims of forced marriages in Guerrero with the Tlachinollan Center, said that in many cases underage girls “see this as something very normal and say they know that at a certain age, their parents are going to deliver them to someone.

Largely rural, poor, and home to several diverse indigenous populations, Guerrero is one of the country’s leading states for the sale of married children, along with neighbors Michoacán and Oaxaca. During a stopover in the mountains of Guerrero last October, not far from Anayeli’s home in Joya Real, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador shot choose to minimize the problem.

“I’m not here to watch this because it’s not the rule,” Obrador said. “There are many moral, cultural and spiritual values ​​in the [indigenous] communities. [Buying child brides] may be the exception, but it is not the rule.

Groups like the Network for the Rights of Children in Mexico quickly blasted the president for “regardless”The“ problem of child trafficking, including the sale of young girls ”of the country, according to the Mexico News Daily.

[T]he President is irresponsible in wanting to hide such a serious problem that occurs in indigenous and rural areas, he does not recognize and wants to downplay the problem, ”said women’s rights defender Aguilar. She sees Obrador’s dismissive attitude as setting a dangerous precedent for tolerance and looking the other way, which will be echoed and emulated nationally and locally.

“I think his opinion is misogynistic and sexist,” said Aguilar, who accused the president of “not caring what happens to this vulnerable group, because they are minors, because they are indigenous and rural, because they are poor, and because they are marginalized populations.

“There are now cases where girls, because they don’t like men, make the decision not to marry them.“

Vintinio agreed, saying that instead of trivializing the problem, the president should “seek strategies to end the practice of forced marriages.”

But there are signs that the current generation of girls and young women may not be waiting for outside help from a selfless president. May they be fed up with the customs, traditions and patriarchal demands that drive them to be sold in marriage, and ready to act on their own.

Days before Obrador gave his inflammatory speech in Guerrero, headlines across the country spoke of the story of another girl de Guerrero who had been sold in marriage at 15. Like Anayeli, this victim was also jailed by community police in her village after fleeing her new husband’s home after her stepfather attempted to rape her. As was the case for the two minors of Joya Real, this young girl was also placed in a protection program with the DIF.

Barrera de Tlachinollan said that while some girls are still “forced to obey” their parents and submit to the sale, the trend may change and Anayeli’s own escape was inspired by this new trend.

“There are now cases where girls, because they don’t like men, make the decision not to marry them. Word was spreading and quite quickly, Barrera said, “it had reached Anayeli’s ears.”


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