Tunisian Drop-Out Brides

It has become second-nature to most -including myself- to reach for their phones at any given moment and to embark upon the endless journey of browsing through the web. Smartphones have made it extremely easy to creep onto the lives of those virtual creatures we stumble upon as we scroll aimlessly through the webpages, whether we know them on a personal basis or whether they are absolute strangers to us. Truth of the matter, we are all seeking entertainment through satisfying a curiosity that we never thought existed prior to it being tamed by the the discovery of information that doesn’t add much to our lives, however, it makes us feel as though we are caught up with with what’s happening around us, and that, in a very strange way, we have participated in those events by observing the highlights of them in a light-speed manner. To sum it up, we all expect the information we are offered to be of a somewhat positive nature, as it is supposed to represent “la crème de la crème” of the individual’s day.

So, as one does, I was aimlessly flipping through Facebook stories, not truly looking but not refraining from doing so either. Until I stumbled upon one image that instantly pained me to a great extent. Especially, because it was intended as a celebratory photograph. It was the picture of an old classmate of mine, eighteen years of age, celebrating her engagement. At first, I personally found it saddening that a teenage girl, in the prime of her youth had felt it right to fast-forward through life and jump into the shoes of a wife and perhaps a mother soon, as she herself remained a child in both my eyes and in those of the law. It enticed a multitude of questions in my head such as: why didn’t her parents view it more necessary for their daughter to focus on graduating high-school? Why didn’t she deem it bad timing? Why didn’t her so-called fiancé have her best interest at heart? Those were all a bunch of questions that, to be fair, were just suppositions of my own, reflective of my own point of view of things. But, later on, I realized that I hadn’t seen my ex-classmate roaming the school hallways since the previous school year, only then did it hit me, that my worst fears were in deed true: she had dropped out of high school, after junior year, for reasons unknown to me.

That image opened my eyes to how frequent this phenomenon was, it took me back to a couple of years ago to the one morning when I heard that the shy frail girl in my class had gotten engaged ,over the summer,to a much older man. Mind you, this was when she was fifteen years old. And of course, she never sat in a classroom again. But, in that instant, we all laughed, we thought that it was funny because of how surreal it was. We cracked jokes because no one truly believed that it would lead to anything serious. We didn’t think much of the poor child that had been robbed of her right to have an education or that she was sentenced to be jailed in a house , put to deep slumber, as she patiently waits for her wedding day , the day when she shall re-awaken and resume living as a teenage wife.

Let me stress that this goes far beyond two arbitrary cases that I happen to have witnessed. This, is a very REAL and IMPORTANT issue. Girls are being forced out of schooling on a daily basis in Tunisia, and some more fortunate ones are mind-washed into believing that it is their choice. Children are condemned to leave their desks along with their juvenile dreams behind to be thrown into adulthood far sooner than anyone should have to. And what’s truly horrifying is that this isn’t being done in secret, these marriages aren’t taking place in dark alleys in the middle of the night. These crimes against innocence are occurring in plain sight, for the world to see but not to react. We have become so numb to all these atrocities because of how frequently they had been present throughout our culture.

Yet, we are taught that such things are of the past, that education always comes first, so why isn’t there any sort of prosecution for those who rob their children of knowledge to serve their own agendas? Why isn’t it at least spoken about in the media or at our dinner tables?

And yes, I do realize that things of similar nature are happening to many boys as well, and that it is just as terrible and horrendous. But, girls, especially kids and teenage girls, have no voice in a society like ours, no one cares to listen to their silent screams. They are long forgotten once they lay those veils on their faces, as if they were invisibility cloaks. We see them, and we acknowledge the obscurity of their fates but we choose to turn a blind eye so we wouldn’t have to share the guilt and ultimately the responsibility, so we can stay passive ,anonymous observers who count not being in their shoes as one of their blessings.

For a teenage girl, who has made it through most of her basic education to quit or to be forced into doing so, before a few years so that she can become a child bride to some monster exploiting her circumstances is beyond unacceptable, it is shameful for a humanity that claims to be so progressive and mature when it comes to child rights especially.

This goes far beyond Tunisia, it has become an indistinguishable trait of the cultures of most if not all poor and third world countries in addition to being present in other nations but in lower percentages. The reasons for this are clear: gender inequality, certain beliefs, poverty, lack of education, insecurity and tradition.For Tunisia, there are no available statistics to officially affirm this issue and put it into numbers that can be dealt with and altered. However, according to girlsnotbrides “EACH YEAR, 15 MILLION GIRLS ARE MARRIED BEFORE THE AGE OF 18.

These girls could carry the potential to become world leaders, physicist, astronauts, writers, painters,doctors, the possibilities are literally endless. But sadly, because of this terrible phenomenon, neither us or them will likely get the opportunity to discover what their inner potential could have led them towards under better and just circumstances.

Thanks to one social media post, I have been able to open a conversation within myself, to aspire to create some sort of change by sparking this topic, and I hope that you too, can do the same for the sake of our girls,for they are just that ,GIRLS.

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