Monday, April 07, 2008

When Polygamy Stops Becoming
A Laughing Matter

When we hear of polygamy cases like the one going on in Texas right now, we usually have a good laugh at the expense of the adults involved. We may hear late night comedians shooting off lines like, “I have 20 kids … that I know about,” and we all have a good chuckle over it.

But what’s not funny is when children and teenagers are involved, such as the case in Texas.

A teenage girl, who claims to be 16, told authorities last week that she was married to a 50-year-old man and lives on a rural compound with a sect called the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

This unknown teenage girl, who so far has not been found among the 401 children taken from the compound, has told authorities that she has been abused and had a baby at age 15. She has also told authorities that young teenage girls were being forced into marriages with older men.

Flora Jessop knows the type of mistreatment that young girls face in a polygamy camp. Because she says she lived in one in her own youth. She has used words “slavery” and “abuse” to describe her hellish conditions and even with the lack of help from her state’s Division of Children and Family Services, she was finally able to escape. And it would be even more of a nightmare when there was a lack of help to rescue her 14-year-old sister, Ruby, from her marriage to her own stepbrother in 2001, Jessop stated.

That is why Jessop is the executive director of Child Protection Project, an advocacy group dedicated to raising awareness of the abuse of women and children who live in polygamy camps and religious organizations throughout the country.

At the moment, Arizona is trying to pass a bill that is designed to prevent judges from awarding custody to a parent who practices child bigamy. And while adding another law may seem like a knee-jerk reaction to trying to solve a serious problem, in this case it should be seen as welcomed ammo to protecting children and parents.

No one thinks of the children involved when they hear a case about polygamy but that needs to change. Marriage between multiple, willing grown adults is one thing and open for debate, but what shouldn’t be debated is the welfare of a young teenage girl being forced into a marriage or lives in a sect that teaches how young girls should be subservient.

To find out more, go to Child Protection Project and Help The Child