Does The Liberal West Really Have Moral Superiority Over Traditional Cultures?
One of the main stories in the World News section of the CNN site today is Child Marriage: Too Young To Wed, a story about the photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair who has travelled the world ‘highlighting the issue of child marriage’ (I’ve included the video below). This is one of those issues where almost everyone in the west is united in one opinion which is never challenged by the media. It is also one of those issue on which many western charities and other groups expend a great deal of time and effort in a bid to wipe out this practice around the world – with a significant amount of success too.
I can already feel the horror from many readers that I would dare to even consider challenging the western narrative on this issue: that this is a barbaric practice which needs to be wiped out. But please – take a moment to hear my argument before jumping to conclusions.
The first thing that I feel compelled to point out is that, contrary to the usual picture that is painted of child marriage (men in their 40′s marrying preteen girls), in the vast majority of cases child marriages are between two children, who do not actually live together as husband and wife to begin the process of starting their own family for some years after the ceremony. Please see the image included with this story for an example of a happy couple, which I think is a good antidote to the venomous work of Ms Sinclair. Even in those cases where there is a large age difference this can in some cases be because an older man has taken responsibility for an orphan or a child from a very poor family who cannot easily feed them; in countries without state social security to take care of people in need this can play a vital role in helping the most vulnerable, and the assumption within the community concerned would be that this marriage would not be consumated until the young girl had grown older.
But the main reason I wanted to write this contrarian piece on child marriage is because, as a writer for World News Curator, I am constantly on the look out for media bias, and I believe that the media coverage of this issue over the years has consistently demonstrated a classic ‘bias of ommission’. I would like to know, for example, how many teen single parents there are in regions where child marriage is still practiced (none), and how this compares to the west (lots)? Likewise I would like to know if they suffer the same levels of crime, drug use and anti-social behaviour amongst teenagers who have lost interest in childish things, feel themselves to be adult, but yet are excluded from adult society to instead form their own disenfranchised ‘street culture’.
Most cultures around the world practiced what would today be considered to be child marriage up until a century or two ago, and these practices were still very common around the world in many different culures until the campaigns of the last couple of decades, which have had significant success in reducing child marriage in many countries, such as India. Undoubtedly there are issues related to child marriage which should be addressed, but can the West really be so certain of its moral superiority over the traditional cultures and values of so many people?
In many ways this represents the very same Imperial attitude which lead to so many atrocities in the 18th and 19th centuries – the idea that traditional cultural practices are barbaric and need to be challenged, or to put it another way, people who stick to their traditional cultures over western culture are barbarians who need to be forcibly civilised.
To my mind the term ‘Cultural Imperialism’ was coined just for things like this. And on a related note one of the main reasons behind the rise of radical Islam and the extreme nationalistic and militant tendencies which it represents, which never had any kind of mass appeal in the Islamic world until quite recently in historic terms, is in no small part due (in my humble opinion) to the fear and anger instilled in so many people around the world when they realised that their traditional values where coming under sustained attack from western cultural imperialism.
Here’s the CNN video: