By Hwaa Irfan
Recently it was reported that a growing number of American girls are experiencing puberty by the age of 7. The current rate is 15% (5% in 1997) beginning with the identifiable feature, the formation of breasts. One girl (who for obviously reasons remains unnamed) was walking by the time she was 8½ months, and was growing pubic hair by the time she was 6 years old, and has been undergoing course of hormonal therapy to rectify the situation.
Reasons, well actually theories given for this modern day phenomenon have been from T.V., to plastics (the chemicals) to obesity. Whatever the reasons are it will not change the reality for those girls going through precocious puberty. In real terms they would have experienced less of childhood, yet still child in the eyes of others. They will be going through the process of individuation earlier, and trapped in a world that has developed a new set of gender stereotypes that say that girls cannot have to complete their compulsory education at a time when social preoccupation will be greater than cognitive development, to see sex as need to be fulfilled without commitment, to get an abortion if one falls pregnant, and cannot marry before they are 18 years of age. This gender mainstreaming spearheaded by the U.N. has only been preoccupied with the feminist agenda which argues the rights of women based on their perception of what those rights are. By removing “feminism” from a debate which has not been open to all types of women, the world has already facilitated their agenda by preventing young girls from options, confusing those options with the demands of parenthood which abuse those options out of need or perception.
The Process of Female Puberty
Contemporary life has been much obsessed with youth, seeking to prolong it to the extent that it has become an obsession that permeates all walks of life from the clothes one wears to surgery. Caught in the illusion of youth are the youth experiencing puberty. It is not just a mechanical process defined by changing hormones, but a process of the laws of nature that guides all life. Unfortunately, the Laws of Nature is something that has been removed from life hence the many imbalances we all experience on a psycho-spiritual, mental and physical level. With women, the price of ignoring the laws of nature is a high price, as we hand over potential identities, to man-made stereotypes feminist, male chauvinist or not ignoring the mutual understanding that must take place between mind-body and spirit. The fact that suicide rates among youth in New York for example demonstrates the lack of knowledge and/or the lack of attention that is given to their self understanding and their relationship with themselves and the world in which they are expected to function.
Puberty is a process of becoming self conscious after a long period of knowing one’s self in another context. So it is not surprising that girls who go through puberty earlier than others experience low self esteem. New unexplained impulse arise, which even in the accepted normal process of puberty does not lead to greater self awareness because society has distanced itself from nature and is therefore not able to provide the needed support. It is only if the pubescent child is fortunate enough to have a mother who has the time to observe and walk her through those changes that a pubescent child can come through with an understanding of herself, otherwise she is subject to unreliable factors within the society in which she lives.
Until now, a young girl would have accepted the authority and the world of her parents if they have been there for her as parents, but with puberty, as we all know, a pubescent child will be experiencing a different and unfamiliar self, and one that does not always understand why she behaves or reactions differently. A pubescent female is entering a period of questions, questioning everything that defines her world in juxtaposition to her. At a time when she needs space to grow into this new self, a pubescent girl is expected at least to attend school in a manner that has only room for identities as defined by a standard curriculum in a world separated from life. At a time when more junk food is being eaten, a pubescent female should be consuming more water to allow for the proper functioning of her mammary glands, and menstrual cycle. How much pain and discomfort known as premenstrual tension can be eased physiologically by drinking more water as the body becomes accustomed to losing more fluids (blood). As her body changes, she should be becoming more familiar with it through the personalized world of her home, so that her body is not a stranger to her, and so that she does not react negatively learning to hate something that is a part of her – this cannot be overcome successively in all cases in the depersonalized world of school. The time when young girls spent their free time with older women learning about their girl/womanhood to date has not been replaced by any modern context, instead she learns to feel uncomfortable about her body, even hate her body, and learns to do what modern society teaches her to do, which is to objectify it, and to fit it into the confusing demands of others ignoring her own needs. These are underlying influences behind PMS.
From the parental point of view, a pubescent daughter is a one full of tensions as the first two things that come to mind are sex, and pregnancy. The response may very well be abortion, but aborting a life is as irresponsible for the foetus as it is for the female on a psycho-spiritual level. The female may want the abortion, but the long term affects on who and what she is a long term issue that impacts on their emotional, psychological, and spiritual health. Even if pregnancy does not occur, young girls who are sexually active in the West tend to go through problems of identity, sexual objectification, and low self esteem.
The affection between a father and a daughter can change dramatically as he is forced to see her as a young woman, when the pubescent daughter still looks like a child, worries set in especially with the growing problem of sexual abuse and rape factors that are a result of forced modern feminist notions of what a girl should be allowed to be. It then becomes reliant on the mother to get the balance right, but if she too has been raised to alienate her body from herself, to objectify it, then she will only see her pubescent daughter’s body as a tool of humiliation. There is no goal in seeing this as a product of a man’s world, when women reinforce these ideas. It is a result of the materialistic world in which we live where we have been entrained to perceive everything as a means of pleasure or displeasure. These are the conflicts that a pubescent female is becoming a woman in, to only be exacerbated by the women who say they represent her.
The Feminist Debate
The much respected Mary Robinson argues in support of the U.N.’s Convention for the Elimination for All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, CEDAW. As former President of Ireland, and the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights in her speech given at an international conference in Paris, February 2011 Robinson argued:
“Let me, at this stage, indicate a practical way in which the Elders are trying to empower girls and women by seeking to encourage culture change. We have decided to dedicate some of our energies to the issue of child marriage – to raise awareness about the harm that it does to girls and their communities, and to build a global alliance to try to end it.
It is a traditional practice – it is not linked to any religion, although religious leaders often sanctify marriages that involve children.
It affects girls disproportionately – boys are married young but far fewer are affected and the impact on their lives is not nearly so devastating.
Above all, child marriage is a taboo – we don’t talk about it, even though it is very common.
In the developing world, one in every three girls is married before her 18th birthday. One in seven girls is married before she is 15. In the coming decade around 100 million girls will likely be married before they reach 18.”
The emotional abhorrence that the West has placed behind the idea of child marriage assumes one thing, that they are indeed still children, and of course children do not have the needs of marriage, but when it comes to child sexual abuse, a growing horror that has become accommodated all over the world, the effort behind the issue is more directed towards helping the victim, than addressing the underlying causes of the problem and eradicating that! The reasons Robinson gave for the eradication of ‘child’ marriages were:
“These child brides face tremendous dangers. They are pressured to experience sexual activity, prove their fertility and have children well before their minds and bodies are ready. Yet a girl aged 15 or under is five times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth than a woman in her 20s.”
All children face tremendous danger as they are at risk of child sexual abuse. In addition, all young girls are faced with the notion of sex outside of school through the media, and inside of school through sex education are at risk of sexual activity in the context mentioned by Robinson which is “before their minds and bodies are ready.” In light of the obsession with youth, and staying young, and explore the aging process as if it is an illness, it has been noted many a time that maturity in the West is taking much longer than it used to so in real terms how does one judge when their minds are ready? For children who start puberty at age 7, how does one judge when they are mentally when they are in fact sexually active? Is this to say that it is sexual activity is only harmful inside of marriage and not outside of marriage. CEDAW have undergone years of making their demands palliative across cultures and faiths but the law will be for those countries that have signed the Convention in Section VI Article 15.2:
“The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage and to make the registration of marriages in an official registry compulsory.”
This means that a “child” in our terms who is sexually active shall not have the right to marry, and if she should fall pregnant she will still not have the right to marry making the male in the relationship less responsible, and the offspring a ward of the parents or its grandparents. This is what happens in the West especially in the U.K. and the .U.S. where teenage pregnancy is a serious problem!
“A child bride is usually expected to drop out of school to take care of children and domestic chores. With no education, she has far less chance of rising out of poverty and contributing to the development of her community. Her children are more likely than those of older mothers to be poor, malnourished and sick.”
COMMENT: This is the case in the West with teenage mothers who find it difficult to maintain schooling, and maintain mothering. It is not peculiar to developing countries, but the fail safe that developing countries have is early marriage with the male as husband taking up responsibility. It is not always the case that the young has to give up her education, her husband may in fact encourage her education at a later period, or she may be happy to stay at home – one is aware of too many young girls who complete compulsory education, and higher education and are all too happy to stay at home in preference to what they find to be a burden, the world of work – and they come from middle class families, not the poor, or rural families that CEDAW and others keep referring to, to make their case against early marriage.
One of the reasons why the U.S. has not signed the Convention, is Article 2 which states:
“… any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil, or any other field.”
Women get pregnant, and men do not, there is no getting away from this fundamental law of nature. Neuroscience has proven time and again through diligent scientific research that women are naturally forgiving, are more prone to collective reasoning in favour of the greater good, and are more compassionate, and empathetic. These skills equip women to be fundamental in the laying of the foundation of the primary, and key social agent, the family. When this breaks down, so does society, which is evident as we look at the world today. To avoid ambiguity over the meaning ‘enjoy’ regardless of marital status as indicated in the above Article, is the a recent and a persistent argument that the state should bear responsibility (cost) of abortion). Stepping aside from the pro-life debate, if this step was to be taken, who would pay for the abortion? If an unmarried woman chooses to enjoy her sexuality and has the misfortune to “fall” pregnant, a common derogatory reference to what is natural, unless she lives in the U.S. which is currently dependent on its Federal Reserve for its budget, which consists of loans from other countries, i.e. it is owned by other countries, in most cases the state means the tax payer. Usually that incurs a social welfare system, which has we known, an increasing number of developed countries like the U.S., the U.K., and France are experiencing incredible difficulties in sustaining a social welfare system. A social welfare system in the U.S. for example as it pertains to unmarried mothers means a continual state of poverty whereby the mother does not have adequate financial resources to split between raising a family, childcare, and education, and has difficulty in sustaining employment in general. This in no way reflects the freedom to enjoy.
Both genders are recipients of the “divine breath” since they are created with the same human and spiritual nature <i> (nafsin-waahidah). “ Jamal al Badawi in reference to Qur’an 15: 29
There is no divinity in the lives of those young women who have been freed to enjoy by succumbing to impulses, instead they become enslaved by their impulses. The argument has been and is apparent in the Convention that men should share equally, but if there has been no commitment to life, why should one expect commitment in marriage?
“A woman’s highest calling is to lead a man to his soul; so as to unite with source, her lowest calling is to seduce; separate man from soul; and leave him aimlessly wandering. A man’s highest calling is to protect woman; so she is free to walk the earth unharmed, man’s lowest calling is to ambush and force way into the life of woman” ~Cherokee Indian Tribe
Most women know innately how to attract a man, and spend lots of money exploiting that fact, never mind that the Convention makes worthless the life of a child until at such time he/she has individuated enough to become a sexual being!
The removal of discrimination against women should not equal the removal of choice. Women want choices not being told what to do, and now more than ever with increasing mental health problems amongst the youth in Western countries, it is the youth who need to be heard, and heard on all levels so as not to continue the alienation of youth from themselves. In recent findings in a Canadian study it was found that young girls who experienced early puberty tend to initiate mixed gender friendships earlier than boys, which is not unusual in light of the fact that girls mature earlier than boys. But what was also found is that these girls exhibited antisocial behaviour, and the problem of substance abuse. 400 girls from French-speaking school were interviewed over a 7 year period.
The case of girls becoming pubescent at age 7 underlines this issue instead of chasing after youth when not listening to the youth!
Cooper, R. “How 15% of American Girls Go Through Puberty By the Age of Seven.” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1376048/More-1-7-American-girls-puberty-age-SEVEN.html
Poulin, F et al. Longitudinal Associations Between Other-Sex Friendships and Substance Use in Adolescence. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1532-7795.2011.00736.x
Robinson, M. “Women Against Fundamentalism and for Equality.” http://theelders.org/media/news/women-against-fundamentalism-and-for-equality