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Kiriakou writes: "All of us must educate ourselves on the issue of human and child sex trafficking. It's a horrible perversion that has been swept under the rug for too long. It has to be stopped."

John Kiriakou. (photo: The Washington Post)
John Kiriakou. (photo: The Washington Post)

Child Bride Trafficking, a State Right?

By John Kiriakou, Reader Supported News

11 March 18


ast week I posted an article on Facebook that I initially meant to be something of a joke. It was entitled “Kentucky Republicans Kill Bill to Limit Child Marriage Because Parents Should Have Right to Marry Off Kids.” Ridiculous, right? Gross, too. I posted it because I wanted to take a jab at Southern states and that stereotypical good-old-boy, marry-your-cousin culture. (Please don’t send me any hate mail. It was a joke and, in retrospect, a bad one.)

This Kentucky bill didn’t even ban child marriages. It just would have required a judge to review records to make sure that the child was not a victim of abuse, that there was no domestic violence in the relationship, and that the adult in the couple was not a registered sex offender. (This is despite federal law, which says that any child under the age of 16 is incapable of entering into a sexual relationship with an adult. By virtue of that, the adult would be a sex offender by definition. But that’s another story.) At the bare minimum, the bill was a good start.

In the days after I posted the article, a handful of people commented — “gross” and “disgusting” is what they said. But then, coincidentally, I had coffee with a human rights attorney. She’s not the kind of attorney who has an occasional case involving human rights and then chases ambulances the rest of the time. She’s the kind of attorney who only does human rights — as in, she sues governments in the United States and abroad to force them to protect the rights of those who are the most vulnerable in society, especially children.

I mentioned the article to her and she responded, “You know, there’s a real history there with laws mostly in Southern states that allowed adults to marry children as young as 12. Most of those laws are still on the books.” Recognizing her seriousness, I asked how in the name of all that’s holy such laws could be constitutional and still in use in 21st century America. Her answer chilled me, and it made me realize, yet again, that American exceptionalism is a bad joke. Our country is so backward on some issues that we should hang our heads in shame.

The attorney explained that these laws are still on the books for a variety of reasons. The most common is states’ rights. Most Southern states don’t want Washington telling them how to live their lives. If they believe their children should be married at 16, or even 13, that’s their business. It’s not the business of bureaucrats and fat cats in Washington who don’t know Southern culture and who are probably hostile to the South anyway.

Second, she said that, in many cases, when there were instances of child molestation in Southern families over the past two centuries, the go-to solution was to marry the child off to the molester. As insane as this sounds, the idea was to spare the family the shame of police involvement, a trial, and gossiping neighbors. Apparently, however, no thought whatsoever was given to the wellbeing of the child. The attorney said this was quite common, especially in the early and middle parts of the 20th century, and it still happens today.

Third, the attorney told me that there have been several cases of parents marrying their young daughters to drug dealers to whom they owe money for crack or meth or opioids or whatever their weakness happens to be. This isn’t a real “marriage.” It’s human trafficking, plain and simple. The drug dealers will then pimp the child out as a side business. It’s sick and it’s a crime, even if the Kentucky legislature doesn’t think it should be.

ECPTAT-USA, a non-profit that works to stop the sexual exploitation of children, issued a report noting that as many as 100,000 children are trafficked for sex in the United States every year. It’s not just in the South, irrespective of my spur of the moment decision to pick on it. It’s all across the country, with Miami and Cincinnati being two of the worst places for child trafficking. The number boggles the mind. And it’s not something that we see much coverage of in the press.

All of us must educate ourselves on the issue of human and child sex trafficking. It’s a horrible perversion that has been swept under the rug for too long. It has to be stopped, and the offenders have to be punished severely. In my view, many of our elected officials are culpable in this as well. I want to tell the Kentucky legislature “To hell with your culture. Start protecting your children.” If state legislatures won’t do it, then Congress has to do it for them. There has to be a legislative solution. In the meantime, it’s up to the rest of us to keep up the pressure.

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act – a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration's torture program.

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+27 # chrisconno 2018-03-11 10:49
It was the culture of some ancient and not so ancient clans and tribes to sacrifice humans to what ever god they had decided, do we still think human sacrifice should be ok if it was part of the culture? It is absurd to allow this legal child trafficking just because the southerners still covet the idea of slavery. How do they live with themselves? Do they have no sense what so ever of morality or compassions?
+10 # Robbee 2018-03-11 12:16
southern states are effing unbelievable!

there is no interactive god!
+13 # elizabethblock 2018-03-11 15:01
We still practice human sacrifice. We call it the freedom to own guns.

As for marriage to abusers ... it used to be that if a woman - an unmarried woman - was raped, if the rapist then married her that made it okay. The plot of the first major novel in English, Samuel Richardson's "Clarissa," turns on this. The woman refuses - she says "No man who has treated me as you have done shall ever make me his wife." And there's a story by Cervantes, where a girl is raped and impregnated, and years later the rapist is spotted by his resemblance to the child. He marries her. Happy ending.
Rape was considered a property crime, not a crime against the person. That's why we now call it sexual ASSAULT. The victim wasn't the woman or girl, but the man who controlled sexual access to her - her father, husband, brother, even son.
+9 # worriedforusa 2018-03-11 19:32
I'm sorely disillusioned by the darkness surfacing in our society. Our lawmakers have long-since ceded morality to the lowest of their constituency (e.g the Repub. "leaders" reaction to Roy Moore; Congress' unwillingness to stand up against the vulgarity that is our President.)

Trump lies every time he speaks; he's uninformed, undisciplined, and unwilling to learn, and he won't take advice from those who are more learned -- his "base" says all that shows his independence?? They say "overlook" his lies and immorality b/c he has "made the supreme court better" (really?), that his tax cut and massive regulations roll-back will bring more jobs. Doubt it; anyway 4.2% unemployment is lowest since 2000.

TRUTH: Want better jobs/income? Fund better education and training!

I sympathize with the Trump voters... being so fed up with our do-nothing Congress, they opted for change of the worse kind ... change to a spoiled toddler that may bankrupt our nation and see us fall under the tyranny of our debt, leave us in a moral morass, and may lead us into another war!

Self-interst seems to be driving the American psyche these days -- to the complete exclusion of "doing the right thing." It is truly disheartening that we're falling so far. The electorate needs to wake up NOW!
+4 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-03-12 07:22
Marriage a very young ages was the history of the world. I have read many records from the European middle ages which show girls as young at 10 or 11 being married. This happens in most nations

But as societies, we are finally realizing that all children, but especially girls, need time to grow up before they are married. They need to go to school and that often includes college.

We are now down to exposing the last remnants of this bad custom. But that does not mean that there are not more generalized problems. It was often the case that marriage at 16 or 18 was a girl's way out of an abusive family situation. At least there was sometimes some protection from a husband.

Things are changing and it is good.
0 # Kootenay Coyote 2018-03-12 09:34
While I agree personally with Kiriakou's position, 14-16 years was globally a normal age for marriage until the 19th. Century. People did not do so badly then, or we would not be here. Life expectancy for most people from Classical times to mid-Victorian ones, was ~ 40 years. As life expectancy increased, so has the average age of marriage. Morality has become confused with chronology & economics.
+4 # ouldgoat 2018-03-12 22:56
And in relevant news, from the Kansas City Star, "Missouri is a destination wedding spot — for 15-year-old brides" and "Hundreds of Missouri’s 15-year-old brides may have married their rapists" both stories
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