BRAVE IDEAS

AFGHANISTAN WOMEN, FORCED MARRIAGES & PREFRONTAL CORTEX

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In Afghanistan, it is believed that between 60 and 80 percent of marriages are forced marriages. These young girls are forced by family and religious practices to marry older men whom they do not love and are inappropriate for them. Refusal by the young girls would result in death if not being severely shunned, which would most likely lead to death because of having no support system or resources of their own. Some women in the Middle East are even kidnapped and forced to marry their abductors.

AFGHANISTAN WOMEN, FORCED MARRIAGES & PREFRONTAL CORTEX

Forced and inappropriate marriages are not just a problem with the Middle East, countries such as England and the United States also have illegal weddings in a number of polygamist communities take advantage of the youth. According to “Factsheet: Early Marriage” (page 4), a report issued by the United Nations, these early marriage unions violate the basic human rights of these girls by putting them into a life of isolation, service, lack of education, health problems, and abuse. Many people believe the best way to protect children from illegal marriages is to make it a requirement that the participants in a marriage be at least 18, but it could be argued that 18 is still too young to make an adult decision.

Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, a neuroscientist with the Institute of Cognitive Neuro Science at University College London said, ” a decade ago scientist pretty much assumed that the human brain stopped developing in early childhood,” but Blakemore and her colleagues found the prefrontal cortex takes an extended period of time to develop and continues to change shape as people reach their 30s and up to their late 40s. This part of the brain shapes our personalities, our social behaviors and how we interact with others and understand them. Blakemore said the prefrontal-cortex “is the part of the brain that makes us human.”


Because the body is in a constant state of growth and entropy, it would be logical to conclude the mind is as well. We assume people are mentally developed long before they actually are. This is why adults throw temper tantrums just like children do when they don’t get their own way and feel socially awkward and insecure just like teenagers. We have mistaken the adult milestone for when our bodies go through puberty and our sexual curiosities become heightened, but the mind and the body are two different things. A girl does not become a woman because she gets her menstrual cycle, and to assume she is ready for sex and to raise children just because her body can bear children is a great error in judgement. A boy is not man just because he gets a hair on his chest, and it’s these absurd ideas of what adulthood is that gets us into trouble. It could be said, being an adult has nothing to do with age and everything to do with experience.

Some younger people are so worldly and mature it’s threatening, while some older people are so immature and childish it’s pathetic. The difference between these individuals’ maturity levels is based on experience and not age. We have to stop assuming that an aged body means an aged mind. A child who is exposed to art, history, travel and multiple languages and cultures, is bound to have more understanding than an adult who has never left a ten mile radius and not really concerned with self-awareness or the general pursuit of knowledge. Our brain is responsible for everything we do as humans. The most basic functions are breathing and walking, but what is really important is our cognitive functions, how we perceive the world and that part is always expanding and growing according to our own efforts. Intelligence is not a fixed trait. It comes more naturally to others just like physical strength, but with the right conditioning we can get smarter just as we can get faster.

However, if the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until we are in our 30’s than we don’t necessarily have the ability to make well thought out decisions until then either, which is probably why we usually consult our elders when making major life decisions. The only problem with seeking advice from our elders, is we as individuals are the only ones who can know our hearts desires and an elder cannot tell us whom to love or marry. We need to make decisions regarding romantic love on our own, and on our own terms. The best way to do this is to wait until we are mature enough. Those of us who have freedom to marry whom we want, rush into marriage early and foolishly. It could be said that divorce occurs due to marrying too early, due to childishness. People marry while they are still in the rapid developmental stage, for this reason they may grow apart.

Though the legal marriage age across the globe is 18 sometimes younger, this is not necessarily wise. A person must be 35 to run for president in the United States for good reason. In America the drinking age is 21. If one is not responsible enough for a drink, what make us think one is responsible enough for marriage? When arguing for our rights, we seem to always argue in the wrong direction, looking for immediate gratification over wise decisions. Most people argue for lowering the drinking age because 18 is old enough to go off to war, but it would be wiser to raise the legal age of marriage than to lower the drinking age, just like it would be wiser to raise the age we send children off to war than to lower the drinking age. Most deaths due to alcohol poisoning occur when a person first drinks because they do not know their limits. The young drinkers do not understand alcohols effects on the body, or that they are in danger until they drink themselves to death. If people cannot understand the workings of alcohol without more experience, how can they understand marriage?

Another interesting thing about young marriages is the girls are always legally allowed to marry at a younger age than the men. In Senegal the legal age for male consent is 20 and the legal age for female consent is 16. There is an average of a two year age gap between the majority of countries. Because the male partner is typically the older partner, this atomically places him in a dominant position of power and influence over the woman. We naturally defer to our elders, assuming they know better than us. We falsely attribute wisdom with age. Allowing young girls who are not mentally developed or experienced in worldly matters to enter into marriages before they are ready, essentially positions them to be submissive to the wants of their male husbands for their entire life. A woman should be encouraged to be more than just a helpmate. They should be encouraged to have their own ambitions and be self-reliant and independent. To teach women to be weak and submissive, which we do almost universally is counterproductive to society in general because it is proven that women make wiser decisions than man regarding the family unit, business and the larger community, but we will elaborate on this point in a later chapter.

Men and women both need love, but the problem comes when humans don’t approach love from a mature perspective.

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Excerpt from Transforming the Victim by Lyon Amor Brave