How do we define a child in terms of it’s physical and mental maturity, and it’s suitability or availability for marriage.
Biologically it is relatively simple as childhood is deemed to change once puberty occurs, but then confusion sets in as first, by legal statute we have the:-
Age of Majority :-
the chronological moment when minors cease to legally be considered children and assume control over their persons, actions, and decisions, thereby terminating the legal control and legal responsibilities of their parents or guardian over and for them. wikipedia-the Age of Majority
The age of Sexual Consent
the minimum age of a person with whom another person is permitted to engage in certain sexual activities, though it sometimes is defined as the age at which a person is considered to be legally competent to consent to sexual acts. Wikipedia-the Age of Consent
and the Marriageable age
This all sounds very reassuring, as it would seem that we have successfully negotiated an extremely delicate and at times difficult time of our childrens lives, and protected them up until adulthood is ensured. Oh that this were true, but even if we just scratch the surface we see that world wide variations occur
|Continent||Age of Majority||Age of Consent||Marriageable age|
|Africa||16-22 yrs||12-20 yrs||16-22 yrs|
|Europe||Variable-click here||14-18 yrs||16-21 yrs|
|North America||Variable-click here||16-18 yrs||16-18 yrs|
|South America||Variable-click here||14-18||14-18 yrs|
Such figures in themselves would cause us a headache, but outside of poor or third world countries, we often face an even bigger set of problems; and that, ironically, is because we are physically bringing up our “children” to well. As a result an imbalance is starting to grow, for are we not ever increasingly producing children with adult bodies yet still with the mind of a child? Does this not lead to a problem for both adults and children, as no party really knows how to behave?
This area is dealt with in more depth in the Paradox of Man Chapter 1, but here just one example will do.
Several years ago I was in the company of my friends, and one of the party was a thirteen year old”child”. Her behaviour and overall demenour came under discussion, and, understandably the consensus was that as a child, she should act as a child, regardless of what her body was telling her.
This would have been fine if she was a “child”, but by anyone standards she had the body of a thoroughly mature woman, and this was view which she shared, vociferously with all around her. Everybody but me tut-tut-ted, and spoke of the legal statutes that are within the table, but I came to the defence, or at least the partial defence, of the “child” in question.
“How can we treat “X” as a child” I said to the adults? “When, very clearly, she has the body of a woman, and how can she be expected to act as a child when hormonally and physically there is so much going on?” ”
Then I turned and spoke to the “child”
“As adults we should recognise your physical development, but that gives us a problem. Legally you are a minor, and we, as adults, are duty bound to think of you as such, and to not place any kind of adult burden upon you. You, conversely have a different problem. Nature has given you a tremendous body which is raring to go, yet with that gift comes certain penalties, the major one if which is that you have almost got to stop thinking as a “child”
Sufficient to say that the smile on her face faded about halfway through my words, and very soon we all went our different ways, but it left a whole series of unanswered questions and viewpoints hanging in the air. The problem for all of us that no real answers, under the current legal system could be found. Here was a child with the body of a full grown woman, with a mental maturity somewhere between the two.
The easy solution would have been to hide behind the current legislation, and, for one or two in the party, that was a preferred solution, but not for all of us, as we chose a different road, and tried to empathise as far as possible; yet it was difficult, for we came from a generation where a 13 yr old child was indeed a child. Mercifully, such problems have been resolved, but the underlying problem of natural law versus “man made” law still remains.
I know why such legal protection has been formulated, and of course children deserve every bit of protection that we can supply, but if we continue to raise our children in the manner in which we are accustomed, then where will our future lie?
I do not have all the answers, so what do you think as fellow bloggers? Can this dilemma be resolved, or will it haunt us until the end of time?
- Child Abuse in India (amanab49.wordpress.com)
- The age of consent in Delaware used to be 7! (football24online.co)
- New Guidelines on Punishing Child Rape Win Praise, and Criticism (sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Muslim body to move SC over marriageable age for community girls (rediff.com)
- Parental notification for abortion (siftingreality.com)
- So, the Hulabaloo About Child Marriage……. (highstreetmuslimah.wordpress.com)
- Marriage age: forum says no to change (thehindu.com)
- ‘After the wedding, fear set in’: a Yemeni child bride’s story (theguardian.com)
- Age of Consent in European & American History (discoverthetruefacts.wordpress.com)
Categories: Growing pains