Guatemala (MNN) — Child brides in Guatemala are learning how to be kids again. It’s all part of the “saving souls” effort underway at the Kids Alive International Oasis Center.
“This type of trauma…it’s ‘soul murder,'” says Corbey Dukes with Kids Alive.
“Jesus said that the devil comes to ‘steal and destroy,’ and that’s what this is all about: it’s the devil trying to kill and destroy the soul and hope and future of this child.”
Child brides in Guatemala
The problem of child marriage is a global one, but it’s especially rampant in Guatemala.
World Bank defines “maternal mortality ratio” as the number of women ages 15-49 who die from pregnancy-related causes while pregnant, or within 42 days of pregnancy termination, per 100,000 live births. Guatemala is pegged at 140 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births.
But, that’s the ratio for a wide spectrum of ages. For every 1,000 girls aged 15-19 years old, the ratio jumps to 92. According to Guatemala’s Population Council, 13% of girls were married before the age of 15, and more than half of women ages 20-24, were married before they turned 18 years old.
“When we say child brides,” Dukes clarifies, “we’re talking [about] girls who were ‘married’ at 10, 11, 12 years old.
“We’re not talking about a 16-year-old boy and 14-year-old girl, like some ‘Romeo and Juliet’ thing. It’s pedophilia. It’s men in their 30s preying on girls 11 and 12 years old.”
One of the former child brides at Kids Alive’s Oasis Center was “married” before her 12th birthday, and then had a baby. Another was pressured to marry an older man by her mother, the man, and the man’s mother.
“A lot of times [that’s] to cover up a crime, because the authorities are far less likely to prosecute a pedophile who says he’s married to this girl, than somebody who just sexually abused an 11 year old,” Dukes explains.
“A family will make an economic decision to allow this to happen, oftentimes because it happened to the mother of the family and her grandmother. You have generations of abuse.”
The shadow of this evil is dark, but it serves to prove the Light of Christ.
Discovering new life at the Oasis
At the Oasis center, Kids Alive staff doesn’t just restore the safety and future of exploited girls: they introduce them to the love of Christ.
“We see resurrection,” Dukes shares. “Seeing a 12-year-old, 13-year-old girl holding her baby and worshipping God is one of my favorite experiences.”
As stated on Kids Alive Web site, “Kids Alive’s Guatemalan staff works with government authorities to provide a safe haven for girls who have been forced into child labor, experienced physical and sexual abuse (often all three), and have either been abandoned or have fled for their safety and lives.”
Along with introducing girls at the Oasis to Jesus and helping them grow in their faith, Kids Alive staff members teach the ‘tweens how to balance motherhood, their education, and similar responsibilities.
The girls also have an opportunity to receive trauma-focused therapy, and access legal support and protection.
“We just see incredible spiritual fruit in the lives of the staff, the lives of these girls,” reports Dukes. “We’re not good enough to produce the fruit that we’re seeing, so it has to be [from] God.”