I recently came across the blog of a local Utah woman of color who has started an advocacy group, Big Ocean Women for maternal feminists in support of traditional family, natural motherhood (no surrogacy or IVF), against abortion, anti-pornography and against sex education in schools. Promotion of polygamy, child marriage, and protection of rapists were not identified as platforms.
Unfamiliar with the term maternal feminist, I followed links on Big Ocean blog and learned that maternal feminism recognizes that the sexes are different but equal, espousing a complementarian philosophy of gender roles. I also learned about the sister organization, United Families International which trains Mormon women (and other faiths) to attend the annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on Women to advocate for traditional marriage and against practices viewed as anti-family.
Both Big Ocean Women and the UFI website lament that meetings of the United Nations Commission on Women are overrun by radical feminists screaming and wearing masks as they try to silence the voice of religious people and traditional mothers. UFI lists sympathetic countries they have provided with tools for defending traditional family at past meetings of the United Nations Comission on Women, including: Algeria, Benin, Canada, Central African Republic, Ghana, Kenya, Lebanon, Mozambique, Nigeria, Palestine, Papua New Guinea (Indonesia), Philippines, Poland, and Senegal.
What does traditional marriage look like in the countries UFI and Big Ocean Women support? Canada and Poland are similar the United States in marriage practices. But in the other ally countries, traditional marriage looks very different. In Algeria, polygyny is legal. Traditional marriage looks more like the early days of Mormonism or a fundamentalist version of the LDS faith.
In Benin, the Central African Republic, Ghana, Kenya, Lebanon, Nigeria, Mozambique, State of Palestine, Papua New Guinea, Philippines and Senegal child marriages to brides under 18 years of age and in some countries under 15 years of age are common.
Traditional marriage looks like a grown man marrying a child.
Additionally, in the State of Palestine if a man rapes a child all charges are dropped as long as he marries the child.
Mormon women advocating for traditional marriage are (hopefully unwittingly) allied with countries with high rates of protected child marriage, polygyny, and in the case of Palestine, exoneration of child rapists through marriage between the perpetrator and their victim.
A better mission for Mormon women would be to lobby for an end to traditional marriage as it is practiced in much of the world. One-third of the women in developing countries married before age 18 while 1 in 9 married before age 9. These traditions are the “evil traditions of the fathers” that the Book of Mormon warns against.
Adolescent pregnancies have higher rates of mortality for both infants and their mothers. Child mothers (especially malnourished ones) are prone to prolonged labor and obstetric fistulas. These are holes that open up during labor, either between the rectum and vagina or bladder and vagina. Corrective surgery is not easily available in most developing countries, resulting in a lifetime of leaking feces or urine. This embarrassing condition results in ostracization, shaming, and banishment for the women who suffer from obstetric fistulas.
Mormon women who want to make the world a safer and happier place for children and their families could do some fundraising for Utah-based IVU-Med that sends doctors and nurses to train local medical personnel in developing countries to perform surgeries that repair conditions such as obstetric fistulas. Liahona Children’s Foundation is an organization that works to provide nourishment and medical treatment for malnourished Mormon children. Many other organizations are actively working to end traditions of child marriage and promote healthy pregnancies for adult women (not children), in households with one wife.
Mormons have no business making political alliances to protect traditional marriage with countries that define traditional marriage as a marriage to a child or to multiple wives.
What organizations do you support that are working to end child marriage, polygyny, or otherwise benefit women and children? I am a supporter of GIRLS not Brides.