Fierce

The Dominican Republic Finally Outlaws Child Marriage After Years of Campaigning by Girls’ Rights Activists

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Outside of the U.S., some good news has occurred amidst a week that has otherwise been full of mayhem and chaos.

On Wednesday, the Dominican Republic’s Executive Branch approved a law that unilaterally bans child marriage in its country.

In the past, children younger than 18 were allowed to marry with a special exemption from a judge. These exemptions happened often. Now, no woman or man under the age of 18 are allowed to marry under any circumstances in the Dominican Republic.

This move is significant because the Dominican Republic has the highest rates of child marriage in Latin America and the Caribbean. Official government figures show that 36% of Dominican girls and adolescents marry or enter into “unions” before the age of 18. In 12% of these relationships, the female partner was less than 15 years old.

More informal “unions” where a girl simply moves into an older man’s household are also common in the DR. These are very common in higher poverty communities where many girls are considered a financial burden on their families. Unions like these will be harder to penalize because there is no formal documentation of their partnership.

There are multiple factors that play into the Dominican Republic’s high child marriage rate.

One of the main factors is the culture of machismo that informs the way that young men and women approach relationships.

According to research conducted by Plan International, 81% of Dominican girls said they preferred men that were five years older than them. This statistic is in stark contrest to 39% of Dominican men who prefer their partners 18 or younger because they found them more “obedient” and “adaptable”.

Not only that, but there is also a strong cultural expectation for girls and women to become mothers and wives. These cultural beliefs have simply stoked the practice of child marriage.

“Child marriage and early unions are seen as normal in society. It is driven by machismo that sees the role of a woman to be just a mother and wife,” said Rosa Elcarte, UNICEF’s representative in the Dominican Republic, to the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Ending early unions will require years of work to change cultural norms.”

Feminists and human rights activists consider this law a win after many years campaigning to put an end to this practice.

But on a bittersweet note, many advocates realize that one law doesn’t dismantle the patriarchal structure of their culture that enabled this practice for so long. There is still a lot of work to be done.

“Our girls and adolescents will be protected … and cannot be forced into marriage in their childhood or adolescence, which in the past was often carried out by parents and legally allowed,” said Sonia Hernandez, an associate director of the International Justice Mission, in a statement to NBC News.

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Gabriel Fernandez’s Mother, Pearl Fernandez, Is Trying to Have Her Murder Conviction Thrown Out

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Gabriel Fernandez’s Mother, Pearl Fernandez, Is Trying to Have Her Murder Conviction Thrown Out

Photos: State of California, Gabriel’s Justice/Facebook

Gabriel Fernandez’s mother, Pearl Fernandez, is trying to have her murder conviction thrown out. The 37-year-old woman has been in jail since 2018 for the murder and torture of her eight-year old son.

Pearl Fernandez is petitioning the court for resentencing, hoping to have her first-degree murder and/or second-degree murder charges thrown out.

Fernandez is hoping to have her sentence vacated based off of new changes to the California state penal code. “I think that she feels that somehow maybe, you know, the special circumstance will be dismissed or maybe she’ll have a chance that the D.A. will agree with the petition,” Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami said to CBSLA.

In June 2018, a judge sentenced Pearl Fernandez to life without parole. The judge charged Pearl Fernandez with the 2013 torture and killing of her eight-year-old son, Gabriel Fernandez.

On May 22, 2013, Gabriel Fernandez died after suffering a fatal beating from his mother. Pearl Fernandez was allegedly angry that he didn’t clean up his toys.

The details of Pearl and her boyfriend’s lengthy torture campaign against Gabriel Fernandez are both gruesome and numerous. Over the course of his eight-month stay with Isauro Aguirre, the couple broke his bones, burned him with cigarettes, pepper-sprayed him, and forced him to eat his own vomit as well as animal feces. And that is just a short-list of what they did.

The case came to national attention after the release of the 2020 Netflix documentary, “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez“. The documentary shone a spotlight on the insidious nature of child abuse. It also highlighted the systematic failures of the social services system that fails to protect children.

Elected officials have expressed their disgust at Pearl Fernandez for trying to escape justice by taking advantage of updated laws.

“The policies and directives from my office and these new laws created by the Legislature are emboldening murderers of children to apply to be re-sentenced,” said Deputy DA Hatami to City News Service. “This is completely unfair to the surviving families and their loved ones.”

He continued: “Families now have to relive all the horror that was perpetrated upon a small and helpless child. Based upon all the evidence presented at the grand jury, which was made public, and the jury trial, Pearl Fernandez was a major participant in the torture and murder of little Gabriel.”

It seems obvious by the fact that Pearl Fernandez is trying to get out of jail after torturing her son to death, that she isn’t remorseful about her actions.

Any other mother who killed her son would probably want to spend the rest of her life in jail instead of trying to find a way to get out of it.

If you believe someone you know is experiencing–or committing–child abuse, there are resources to help. Call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to www.childhelp.org. Staying vigilant could help save a child like Gabriel Fernandez.

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Nanny Cam Footage Shows Months of Torture and Child Abuse that Led to the Death of 9-Year-Old Emrik Osuna

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Nanny Cam Footage Shows Months of Torture and Child Abuse that Led to the Death of 9-Year-Old Emrik Osuna

Photo via GoFundMe

A tragic story of child abuse out of Idaho has been rocking the nation. After weeks of starvation, beatings, and torture at the hands of his father and stepmother, 9-year-old Emrik Osuna died from his injuries.

This week, an Idaho judge ruled that there is enough evidence for the Erik and Monique Osuna’s murder trials to proceed.

Police found nanny cam footage that was evidence of the torture that Emrik faced for months. The footage shows months of endless forced exercise, physical and verbal abuse, and the systematic starvation of the little boy. Footage shows his stepmother pulling him from the ground by the hair and “swinging him around like a rag doll”. It also captures her beating him with a pan and cursing at him.

Prosecutors say that Emrik was fed only a diet of rice and water the weeks before he died. Emrik’s parents also forced him to sleep on the floor or in a hall closet. By the time his lifeless body was taken to the hospital on September 1st, 2020, he was practically skeletal.

“The little boy had bruises all over his body, specifically on his buttocks, groin, legs and torso,” said prosecutor Tamara Kelly. “Some of the bruises were extremely large and essentially covered the back of his body.”

The couple is facing respective first-degree murder charges. Erik Osuna, the 9-year-old’s biological father, is also facing charges of evidence tampering, inflicting bodily injury and injury to a child. According to reports, the boy’s stepmother, Monique Osuna, was the primary abuser of Emrik. However, Erik rarely, if ever, intervened to help his son.

The day that Emrik’s health declined rapidly, his parents hesitated to take him to the hospital out of fear. Hours before Emrik died, Erik Osuna allegedly texted his wife, Monique, saying, “I know you are scared. I am too.”

Emrik Osuna’s relatives are shocked and heartbroken at the tragic death of the 9-year-old boy.

“I just started bawling, started crying – I just can’t believe it,” said Marie Osuna, Emrik’s aunt, about when she first heard of his death. “It just shocks me. I don’t know how anybody can do that to a child.”

According to relatives, Emrik’s mother also abused him and his twin siblings before police arrested her. Marie Osuna said that Emrik’s father was “in and out of his life” for years before gaining full custody of him. In the meantime, Marie Osuna took care of Emrik in Orange County.

“He was just like one of our own. He loved us. He would call me mom,” Marie Osuna told KTBV 7. “He was just a good kid, he was happy. I just don’t understand what happened.”

“Why would they starve him like that?” she asked. “What did he do to deserve to be starved or even to be hit, like a dog? He just needed love. He just needed love, that’s it, and to feel safe.”

If you believe someone you know is experiencing–or committing–child abuse, there are resources to help. Call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to www.childhelp.org. Staying vigilant could help save a child like Emrik’s life.

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