A California man has been arrested for arranging for his 14-year-old daughter to marry a neighbor in exchange for US$16,000, 100 cases of beer and several cases of meat, police said.
Authorities in Greenfield, a farming community on California’s central coast, said they learned of the deal after Marcelino de Jesus Martinez, 36, asked them for help getting back his daughter after payment wasn’t made.
Martinez was arrested on Sunday. He was scheduled to be arraigned yesterday in Monterey County Superior Court on felony charges of procuring a child under age 16 for lewd and lascivious acts, statutory rape and cruelty to a child by endangering health, the prosecutor said.
The prosecutor’s office said Martinez did not have an attorney of record yet.
Police also arrested the intended groom, 18-year-old Margarito de Jesus Galindo, on suspicion of statutory rape, but prosecutors have not decided whether to charge him. Police did not return a message on Tuesday for information on whether Galindo had an attorney.
Martinez is a member of an indigenous Mexican Trique community. Greenfield police Chief Joe Grebmeier said the case highlights an issue confronting local authorities in that arranged marriages with girls as young as 12 are not uncommon among the Trique.
He hesitated to say the girl was being sold into marriage, as the money was intended as a dowry and the beer and meat were for the wedding. But, he added, the arrangement violates California law, where the age of consent for marriage is 18, and with parental approval, 16.
“This is certainly not the first such case I’ve heard of,” he said of the marriage involving an underage girl.
Members of the indigenous community protested the news reports and public discussion of the case, saying they were painted in a very negative light.
“No one put a ‘for sale’ sign on this girl, and that’s how it sounds,” said Rufino Dominguez, an indigenous immigrant and head of the Greenfield office of the Binational Center for the Development of the Indigenous Communities.
He said arranging marriages and exchanging goods that will contribute to the wedding party are common, but money is not usually part of the transaction.