Saturday, June 22, 2013

Forced marriages: A recent experience that happened to a student at my school

 This herd boy tried to beat a student at my school into marriage but he messed with the wrong people!

   I usually write about sunny skies, sprinkles and chocolate chips. You know, the good stuff.
   But today I want to discuss something more serious: forced marriages.
   Although there are no known statistics for forced marriages in Lesotho, it's a common thing here.
   Some girls get beat or worse, raped into marriages by some of the men here.
   In some cases, the girls' families will send a posse to rescue their children. In other ones, the police will get involved. Other times, nothing happens. (Marriage here requires a negotiation or fee called lebola, which says that a man must pay 26 cows to a woman's family. If you don't have cows, 5 sheep are equal to 1 cow but each family negotiates based off of what animals and resources they currently have.)
   I've heard of a few volunteers share stories of forced marriages. Unfortunately, I now have one to tell.
   My school is located on a mountain and sits next to a bigger one amongst the Pukane Mountain Range. There are many smaller villages within this range, and the children that live in those communities attend my school.
   During one recent morning assembly, teachers were informed by children coming down the mountain that a student was being beat into marriage by a herd boy (a boy or young man who looks after animals) on top of the mountain next to our school.
   "I will kill you if you don't marry me today!!" the herd boy screamed to the young girl, a friendly and well-liked student at school.
   Most of the teachers and students ran up the mountain to rescue the student and kick the herd boy's ass. (For safety concerns, I stayed at school with the remaining teachers and students.)
   The victim came down the mountain a short while later, obviously traumatized. She went into a classroom to try to collect herself and to process what had just happened.
   About two hours later, I heard some commotion. I immediately dropped my lunch of papa and milk and went outside when I saw it: a mass of students waving sticks; singing and dancing.
   They had captured the herd boy!!!
   Apparently, the students (the kids!!!) found the herd boy hiding in a donga (a waterless basin) many miles away from my school. They tied his arms with a rope and walked him back to school. Here are some photos of his arrest:

The students, villagers and teachers encircled the perp and would NOT let him leave:

They shamed the slime ball, an 18-year-old who used to attend my school:

The police came and arrested the herd boy:

The herd boy, who already has one wife, is being loaded into a police truck: :

News travels quickly! My boss gave a few interviews to some radio stations, and here is the school listening to one of the reports:

   It was a very intense day. My emotions were all over the place!
   I had never witnessed the (rightful) public shaming that I saw on that day. And I was sad that the student, an intelligent and beautiful girl, had to endure such a horrific and traumatizing experience. (She even got bit by the herd boy's dog.)
   But I was happy that the children found the perp AND brought him back to school. (How freakin' gangsta is THAT??)
   My bosses at Peace Corps told me during Pre-Service Training that forced marriages are real and sadly, there's nothing we can do about them.
   My only hope is that the student begins the healing process and that God spares the many other girls who are at-risk for forced marriages.

NOTE: I've talked to Peace Corps' security about the incident and told them that despite this situation, I still feel safe here. Please do not worry about me. Not to make light of a heavy situation but I got attacked by a duck a few weeks ago and I think that was more of a threat to my safety and security than the above situation.