Ten year old girl becoming mother is “a normal ritual”

November 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

The mother of the ten-year old girl who gave birth in Spain this week  is widely quoted in the press this morning as being puzzled by the media attention her daughter has received. She says it is a “normal ritual” for members of the Romanian Gypsy community. Even though it is not allowed by the Romanian law, custom allows the community to marry girls young. According to the custom the husband is normally of a similar age or a year or two older.

This case has largely caught the media attention because the birth took place in Spain, a nation where ten year olds giving birth is certainly not the norm. Only 177 girls under the age of 15 gave birth in Spain in 2008, according to stats from ANI (lower than many other European  countries, incidentally).

The youngest confirmed birth was Lina Medina, who gave birth at the age of five years, seven months and 21 days. This was an entirely different type of case – her father was arrested on charges of child abuse although was later released, but some kind of abuse has to have been the cause of this case, giving that the child was only five. Earlier this year a nine-year old girl in China was reported to have given birth – but again, some aspect of abuse could be presumed as her parents reported the case to the police.

In the case of the young Roma mother, her mother seem delighted with the pregnancy, and no police involvement has taken place yet. The newspapers suggest that the mother has already separated from the father, a 13 year old boy, and she will remain in Spain for the time being.

If entirely a matter of choice, then it’s not up to us to condemn or congratulate her for becoming a mother so young. However, you could speculate about the education the girl received – both formal and sex education. And if she’s ten, wouldn’t she be better off in school? Roma communities do not encourage women to pursue education in many cases. Post after post on this blog ends up by concluding that the more education and opportunity women have, the better. And convention would suggest that two parents are better than one – although this is a point that could be argued. Spain’s social services are investigating the welfare of baby and mother, although positive noises coming out from those involved suggest the two will be allowed to stay together.

Either way, to have a baby so young will mean the girl misses other opportunities. The custom for Roma girls to get married and have babies as young as ten, means motherhood is practically the only option for young uneducated women in that community.

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