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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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Barack Obama Opened Up About How The White House Strained His Marriage To Michelle— “my heart would suddenly tighten”

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Barack Obama Opened Up About How The White House Strained His Marriage To Michelle— “my heart would suddenly tighten”

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In Barack Obama’s newest 768 page memoir, A Promised Land, the former president sheds some light on his covetable marriage to his wife Michelle Obama. In the honest memoir, the former president recalls the moments that threatened the strength of his marriage to the former first lady recalling how he consulted with his wife about running for president when it was already too late; he’d already done quite a bit of work without telling her.

“She gave me a hard look and got up from the couch. ‘God, Barack…When is it going to be enough?'” Obama explained in the memoir. “Before I could answer, she’d gone into the bedroom and closed the door.”

Speaking about their marriage in the memoir and with People Magazine for a new interview, Obama explains how his role as president created a rift in their relationship that he thought was once impossible to repair.

Obama explains that his time in the White House was wracked with marital tension.

“Michelle very much believed in the work I did but was less optimistic about what I could get done. … She’s more skeptical about politics and more mindful of the sacrifices to the family,” he revealed.

Still, Obama says “I think we came out of it whole… There were great joys in the White House. There was never a time where we didn’t recognize what an extraordinary privilege it was to be there. Most importantly, our children emerged intact and they are wonderful, kind, thoughtful, creative — and not entitled — young women. So that’s a big sigh of relief.”

In an interview with People, Obama opened up about the part his role as president had on affecting the happiness of his wife and the former first lady.

People describes politics as “a blood sport” which Michelle Obama always hated and how Obama’s “preternatural ease” contributed to the feelings of loneliness she felt while in the White House.

“There were times where I think she was frustrated or sad or angry but knew that I had Afghanistan or the financial crisis to worry about,” Obama explaned, “so she would tamp it down.”

Addressing a passage in his latest memoir, Obama recalled “There were nights when lying next to Michelle in the dark, I’d think about those days when everything between us felt lighter when her smile was more constant and our love less encumbered,” he writes, “and my heart would suddenly tighten at the thought that those days might not return.”

Fortunately, People asked if they ever found their way back to those days.

“We did,” Obama told the magazine. “It was like a big exhale right after we left office… It took some time to talk about how she had felt… Once [the presidency] was done, there was possibility of her opening up … but more importantly, just her being able to let out a breath and relax.”

Obama shared that these days the former First Lady is “more relaxed and more joyful since we left office.” The resulting effect has been that it has allowed the Obamas “to just enjoy the deep love that comes with a marriage this long. But also to be friends again.”

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Activist Couple Was Married At The Border Wall Where They First Met Six Years Ago

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Activist Couple Was Married At The Border Wall Where They First Met Six Years Ago

Alexandra Mendoza / Getty Images

With all the uncertainty and traumatic news happening around us, it’s so encouraging to hear stories like this one. And that’s exactly what this couple had in mind when deciding to have their wedding ceremony at the U.S.-Mexico border wall in Tijuana – the same spot they met six years ago.

In marrying at the border wall, these two deportees wanted to bring attention to their respective causes (they both head support groups for recent deportees) while giving hope to those who are facing deportation.

Their message for those who face the traumatic experience of deportation is that life goes on and no matter which side of the border you are on, you’ll fine love, be embraced by family, and chase your dreams.

An activist couple celebrated their marriage with a ceremony at the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Yolanda Varona and Héctor Barajas celebrated their love for another this past weekend, in front of the wall that divides San Diego and Tijuana. The same wall that separated them from their loved ones. The same wall where they met.

The couple met six years ago to the date, on the Mexican side of Friendship Park, while defending their respective causes. Varona is an advocate for recently deported mothers while Barajas works to help recently deported veterans.

“Someone told me go to the wall and that I’d find a veteran who was also deported and maybe with him I’d be able to do the activism that I long had wanted to do,” she told the San Diego Union Tribune in an interview.

She added that the veteran kind of intimidated her with his uniform and good looks so she asked him if she could take a picture with him to help break the ice. The pair have been inseparable ever since that ‘date’ in 2014.

Having legally celebrated their marriage back in August, the couple decided to host the ceremony with family and friends at the same spot they first met.

For both, this ceremony was important to send a message of hope to other migrant families.

Credit: Alexandra Mendoza / Getty Images

In an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribue, Varona, who leads the DREAMers Moms group in Tijuana, said, “It is very symbolic because this wall separated us from our children, but it reminds us that there is life out here too and we can continue fighting from here.”

All too often the story of deportation is one of an ending. However, regardless of how traumatic and difficult the experience is, it’s important to remembre that life goes on. There is a strong community in Mexico formed from those who have been deported – and many different resources to help those readjust to their new lives.

During their special ceremony, the groom couldn’t hide his happiness. “She has always been there for me, and I want to continue to be a better person, and I know good things will come for us,” he said during their ceremony.

The couple were accompanied by friends, including members of their communities: deported mothers and veterans. The ceremony was brief, given that the beaches of Tijuana are open on reduced hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, there was no lack of dancing between the couple in front of the sunset.

Their activism work brought them together but they both share similar stories as well.

Varona, who lived with her family in San Diego, was deported more than a decade ago, while Barajas, a former United States Army trooper, was involved in an altercation and after serving a year and a half in prison was repatriated to his native Mexico in 2004.

Determined to return to the U.S, Varona made another attempt at living in the U.S. without documentation but she was subsequently deported again in 2010. Upon being sent back to Tijuana, she founded the support group for deported mothers.

Barajas founded the support group for deported veterans after arriving back in Tijuana. However, in 2018, he was granted a pardon by then Governor of California, Jerry Brown, and he was able to return to the U.S. to complete the naturalization process to become a U.S. citizen.

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