With a straight face, B.C. Attorney-General Wally Oppal said this week there’s no evidence that girls in the province’s infamous polygamous colony are being exploited.
“In fact,” he added, “it was surprising to me the number of young women who told police that they were the aggressors, that they wanted to have sex with the older men.”
What’s Oppal been smoking in Lotusland? What did he expect from girls who’ve been raised in a cloistered community where men have all the power, independence and education is discouraged and females are brainwashed for years to believe their role is to breed and serve men.
Did he imagine that after a lifetime of emotionally crippling psychological moulding that girls from Bountiful would reveal their true feelings to outsiders — especially the cops?
It’s too late to save many of the women, says Audrey Vance, of the B.C. group Altering Destiny Through Education, which does its best to convince Bountiful kids to stay in school.
“But I think we’re getting through to the young teens,” she says. A few of the teens are graduating from high school and more young women are actually leaving the polygamous community, Vance adds.
Education may be crucial to helping young people — especially girls — escape Bountiful, but it’s pathetic that volunteer groups are doing more to help stamp out polygamy than the government.
It’s no surprise that the girls interviewed by the cops insisted they engaged in consensual sex with men in the polygamous colony.
“They’re brainwashed into having sex with older men,” says Alberta-based anti-polygamy activist Nancy Mereska.
“They’re also brainnwashed to believe that if they do not comply with what the leaders of their sect want them to do, they will be cut off from God and they will burn in hell,” she says.
“My grief for these people is profound and my tears have been many.”
On Wednesday, a special prosecutor recommended that no sex-related charges be laid against Bountiful residents. Instead, Richard Peck proposed that the government take the polygamy issue straight to court for a constitutional ruling.
A weary and frustrated Mereska wonders why British Columbia didn’t take that route years ago. “How long is this particular process going to take?
“How many more young women in polygamous sects are going to be forced into religious rape and how many more babies are going to be born that were conceived out of religious rape?”
Her anger is understandable. The B.C. government has pretty much ignored Bountiful for decades and, in recent years, has been reluctant to proceed with a polygamy prosecution for fear the law would be struck down as a violation of freedom of religion.
As Peck noted in his report, however, religious freedom is not absolute.
“There is a substantial body of scholarship supporting the position that polygamy is socially harmful,” he said.
So it’s highly unlikely the Supreme Court of Canada would place the interests of exploitive megalomaniacs over the health of women and children.
“If they’re worried about a constitutional challenge, let’s get on with it.
Utah has set up social services agencies in one of its polygamous communities and B.C. should do the same in Bountiful so people know there are alternatives, he adds.
And how about regular job fairs in Bountiful?
Let these young women know there is more to life than sexual bondage.
Aug. 3, 2007 Opinion