If a twenty-year-old man seduces an underage girl, it should be considered a crime and he must be punished for it accordingly
A couple of months ago, Bashtam Gorbunenko, 11, from the settlement of Komsomolsky in Russia's Volgograd Region gave birth to her first son. At that, neither the regional administration nor doctors or neighbors were surprised with the early age of the mother. Neither Bashtam's family was shocked that their young daughter became a mother at eleven.
The settlement where the Gorbunenkos live is situated 70 kilometers from Volgograd, however it seems to be distant far from the civilization: there are just few telephones in the settlement, the houses have no running water. And the place looks somewhat deserted. A shop resembling a barrack and a school buried in verdure are just few objects of note in the settlement. Youth escape from Komsomolsky in search of a better life; only those who have no place to go to stay in the settlement.
The Gorbunenkos are the only Gypsies in the settlement and everybody knows them. They rent a house where the whole family of twelve people including the newborn baby live. The house is old enough; the furniture is also miserable. The family live on the money that the men earn by shepherding cows.
The young mother does not look her age: she wears long dresses, her figure is buxom enough and she wears her long red hair in a bun which is typical of women not girls. Bashtam has considerably put on weight after the childbirth. It is highly likely that the father of the baby, Mikhail, could not even guess that the girl was just eleven when he met her. Bashtam and Mikhail, 20, met in the city of Taganrog a bit more than a year ago. The girl went to the place to live with her grandmother and help her about the house. Mikhail's family also came to Taganrog in search of a job. His father and brother worked as construction workers, but Mikhail was not employed at all. He enjoyed his time together with friends and went to dancing parties in the evenings. He met Bashtam at a dancing party and supposed the girl was 15. The young people drank beer, gin-tonic and other alcohol drinks. Bashtam says she does not even remember how they first had sex with Mikhail. Now, the girl asks journalists not to write that afterwards she had sex with Mikhail many times. For some reason, it is now important for her to make everybody believe she had sex just once and got pregnant. Bashtam did not tell her relatives about the pregnancy, and her grandmother guessed it later. She sent the girl to her parents. The parents did not initiate criminal proceedings against the seducer; on the contrary they said there would be no abortion if Mikhail marries Bashtam. Mikhail's mother, she also lives in the house, says that her son agreed to marry Bashtam at once as he fell in love with the girl.
Mikhail's family sold what they had in Taganrog and moved to Komsomolsky where Bashtam's family lives. When the girl was in the fifth month of her pregnancy, the parent organized a modest wedding party at home (certainly there was no official registration of the marriage as the girl is too young to be officially married). The girl visited a doctor just twice within her pregnancy, and local doctors sent her to the regional hospital to deliver the baby under the supervision of more experienced doctors and rather to shift the responsibility onto other people's shoulders.
Doctors also could not believe that the young mother was just eleven; they worried that the childbirth might be a problem. Fortunately everything was OK. Bashtam gave birth to her son Mitya on May 27, 2005. The boy came to the world healthy with normal weight and other parameters. The mother has enough milk to breast-feed the baby. Bashtam's mother Pavlina, 30, still breast-feeds her younger three-year-old daughter.
The men of the family shepherd cows, Bashtam's mother and mother-in-law work for owners of local fields. But still the Gorbunenkos are poor and can afford buying enough food only once a moth when the men bring their wages home. The young parents have no money to buy new baby clothes for the son; Bashtam says that her son wears the same clothes that she and her sisters wore many years ago. Mikhail does not help his “wife” to nurse the baby, as according to the Gypsy tradition fathers begin to bring-up sons much later.
Bashtam and Mikhail are illiterate, they never went to school. The girl's sisters and brothers also do not go to school. At that, their mother Pavlina does not worry that her children remain illiterate. She is sure that being illiterate herself she is living a proper and happy life. Pavlina believes it is not really important to know how to write and read at all.
People in the settlement speak well of the Gorbunenkos: they are good shepherds, do not drink alcohol and do not steal which is typical of many Gypsies. Being real Gypsies, the Gorbunenkos seldom stay for long in one place; the usually move from one place to another in search of a job. Mikhail says that in autumn they will move to some other place, but neither he nor Bashtam have any definite plans for the future. The girl says that they will not have more babies for the time being; she says upbringing of the son will require much effort. Bashtam says she loves her son, but at the same time she confesses she herself wants to behave like a little girl and still play toys.
Some people may be touched looking at the young mother, but the girl is a sorry sight indeed. Her eyes are not just sad but rather empty. Like many children in remote parts of Russia, Bashtam did not enjoy her childhood and entered the adult world too early. Children in out-of-the-way places never dream of becoming actresses or astronauts; they early begin to drink beer and alcohol, and have sex. Their life is inert and promises no good future.
A month ago, another 11-year-old girl gave birth to a baby in Moscow; the father of the baby is a Tajik guy who came to Moscow in search of a job. The young people got married. The outrageous scandal was widely discussed in the media. It is still not clear if normal people must be touched with the story or they should be indignant at the seduction of the underage.
The society seems to have agreed to take the story as an exception and focus no more attention on it. But it is perfectly clear that the story may repeat in some other place, and it is no good to pay little attention to such scandals.
On the one hand, the Russian Criminal Code provides for severe punishment for defilement of underage individuals. On the other hand, a seducer avoids punishment if he marries his victim. Is this normal? This is paradoxical that parents of seduced girls do not initiate criminal proceedings against seducers; what is more, the seduced victims even help their seducers avoid punishment. What is going on with the morals of the people who let somebody else steal childhood from their daughters and step into the adult world being absolutely helpless to survive there? What is the future of these girls who receive the maternal burden too early and lose every opportunity of having normal childhood and youth? It is time to call things by their right names and stop abnormal encouragement of marriages between 11-year-od girls and adult boys. If a twenty-year-old guy seduces an underage girl, this is a crime and he must be punished for the crime.
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