By Abby McCrary, Dominican Volunteer
On Nov. 25, 2013, the United Nations observed International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. In recognition of this day, an event took place at the UN under the umbrella of the Secretary General’s UNITE Campaign. A performance entitled “Wounded to Death” by Italian playwright Serena Dandini showcased the multidimensionality of femicide through monologue, giving a voice to victims of gender violence around the world. Rather than attempt to describe these striking accounts and their empathetic power, I will instead include one here:
I died while giving birth. “So what?” you say. Every year millions women around the world die the same way. Don’t bother us about something like that. Sure, it’s true. But what I wanted to tell you is that I was only 9 years old when my husband got me pregnant. Nobody seems to know it, but there are lots of us, too. Here we are, the child brides, the doll mommies. Mothers who are so young themselves that they can’t even manage to carry their own children. And some of them, like me, can’t even manage to bring them into the world to begin with.
My husband is an important man in my village. He is a trades man, and everyone respects him. You can’t be impolite to him or risk offending him. In fact, when he asked my father if he could marry me, daddy really couldn’t say no, even though he was five times my age. Besides, my future husband had already offered my father quite a lot of money in exchange for his little girl. You can’t imagine how proud I was. Finally I was worth something to my family. They even gave me extra helpings at dinner time for a week before the wedding, as if I were a boy.
Women are always saying what a nuisance it is to have their periods. I wouldn’t know, because I only got mine once. It never came again, because after just one month I was already pregnant. Granny had told us it would be better to wait at least a year to celebrate our honeymoon, but my husband was a man and he needed a woman. You know, men aren’t mean, they just need to find some relief. Why should they go and waste good money on some lady, when they’ve already paid for a wife? That’s what my husband said the night he had his way with me. Every week when he came back from selling his wares in the markets, my husband kept coming back to my bed, even though my belly was growing bigger day by day.
I stopped going to school. What else could I do? It happens to millions of girls around the world. I know so, because our teacher told my parents while trying to persuade them to let me continue my studies. But my father didn’t want to hear anything about it. Don’t blame him. Our fathers do it for our own sake. They think they can protect us from the worst hidden dangers by finding us a husband. When a poor little girl gets married, it’s like she’s getting a kind of insurance policy. Once she’s someone’s wife, she will be safe and sound. No one will try to molest or rape her or make her pregnant… except her husband, of course.
My baby was too big. He just couldn’t find his way out of me, and then I realized I couldn’t breathe anymore. The two of us lifted off together, up in the heavens, and we became as big as giants that no one can touch anymore.
The story above is not unique, but one of an estimated 60 million child brides, married before the age of 18. Violence against women and girls, in all its manifestations, is a violation of human rights which affects one in three women worldwide. It is violence against not only individuals, but also families, communities, nations and humanity. Violence against women isn’t cultural, it’s criminal. It is a threat to the fundamental stability, security, and prosperity of our societies and necessitates action. This injustice demands action from all of us, young and old, rural and urban, rich and poor, women and men. Let us commit ourselves to listening to the stories of women, and standing up for their dignity and inalienable rights.
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