Child Bride in Jordan Puts Daughters on Same Path

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What kind of mothers subject their daughters to drudgery, deny them education and threaten them with early marriage and other human rights abuses? The answer, one family's story suggests, are women who've gone through just that themselves.

Child Bride in Jordan Puts Daughters on Same PathAMMAN, Jordan (WOMENSENEWS)--Fawzeya, a 70-year-old Palestinian-Jordanian woman living in a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan, raised her two daughters--now 53 and 47--with an iron hand.

She forbade them to read novels because they would be corrupting. She worked them hard at house chores, having them re-scrub floors and re-clean everything. If she exhausted them, then they would have no energy left for boy trouble or "other nonsense." She often regarded her oldest daughter--17 years younger than she--with inexplicable jealousy, as if she was her rival or competitor.

Fawzeya and one of her daughters shared the story with Women's eNews. Fawzeya's last name is being withheld to protect the family's privacy and safety, since some details could be considered harmful to the family's reputation and as grounds for divorce.

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Under their mother's tyrannical domination, the daughters dreamed of escape through the only available route: marriage, and as soon as possible. This is a common dream for girls who grow up in drudgery, as they often find some of their happiest moments at weddings, where the brides look pampered and wear beautiful clothes and jewelry.

When one of Fawzeya's daughters became engaged at 16, her mother took her to a family medical clinic and asked the doctor to examine her vagina and declare her hymen intact.

Virginity tests are becoming more frequent, Dr. Momen Hadeedi, head of the National Centre of Forensic Medicine in Amman, said in a July interview with Alghad newspaper; about 1, 200 women undergo them each year in Jordan.

A small percentage of prospective husbands ask for virginity tests, but in this case, Fawzeya was the one to impose it. But her daughter said the test was humiliating and painful and did long-term damage to her sexual relationship with her husband. Thoughts of the test would recur when he wanted to have sex with her. She didn't feel she could tell him about the upsetting association because it might raise questions in his suspicious mind. Had his wife known other men? Is that why her mother ordered the test? Like many men in Arab societies, he would not keep a wife who he thought might have had sexual experience before marriage.

After marrying young to flee their mother's oppression, both daughters were forced to leave school and found themselves bound to incompatible partners. Any dreams of freedom were crushed by mothers-in-law who were even worse than their own mother.

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