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Sunday, November 05, 2006


Hmong Culture Clash - and a Word of Advice to Hmong Young People and School Officials

On my Hmong-related Web page, Hmong Culture Clash, I discuss some of the challenges that Hmong people in Wisconsin have faced due to clashes between their traditions and our culture and legal system. Things have improved a lot over the years as the Hmong people have become informed about US laws and culture, but there are still challenges and areas of clash.

One interesting example is the area of marriage. In Laos and in Hmong culture, teenage marriage is common. Girls age fourteen to sixteen are likely to marry older Hmong boys. In fact, that used to be legal in the United States, but now in Wisconsin one must be over sixteen (marriage at sixteen is possible with parental consent). Some immigrants from Laos have followed their traditional ways of early marriage, only to learn that it is against the law. I have one friend, for example, who came to the US and soon married a Hmong teenage wife that he met in Appleton. The "marriage" was done Hmong style, with a shaman conducting the ceremony and so forth, but was not a legal marriage. While Hmong teenage marriages still occur regularly, they don't seem to be prosecuted in many cases by the local authorities, but his case was prosecuted. He ended up being on probation after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor offense. Not a great way to start married life! And not a great thing to have on your public records, either. Fortunately, both of them matured and grew and have achieved significant things in their lives, and have raised a great family.

Several of my Hmong friends have joined me in encouraging Hmong youth to not get married too early, and certainly to not violate US law, even if chances of prosecution seem low. A growing number of Hmong women, for example, recognize that the lost educational opportunities by marrying too early can be a great disadvantage for a Hmong girl. Some of the most vocal opponents of Hmong teenage marriage I know are Hmong women who made that mistake. Some have worked wonders in overcoming that challenge and continuing their education, and I salute them. Meanwhile, I encourage young people to think seriously about marriage and take their time. Under eighteen is just too early, in my opinion.

I think school officials throughout the Fox Valley should be sensitive to the problems of teenage marriage and listent to the grapevine to know who's planning to make that mistake. Early intervention can prevent the problem in some cases, or help people step out of an unwise and illegal relationship until they are old enough to make that decision on their own and in accordance with law. I think the schools offer the best hope for dealing with this problem. From what I've seen, I think there are opportunities in the schools to help Hmong youth better understand their options, the law, and their future opportunities.
Thanks for the clarification regarding what happens to Hmong youth who marry early in this country. It is obvious that your friend, while he did stick to his native customes, did so and was arrested for it. The issue that I, and many US Citizens have is that while it may THEIR custom in THEIR country, it is not our custom and it is not legal here.

Take for example the horrific crime committed by the Hmong father who cut off his daughter's hands for dating the wrong boy. This may be their cultural way of dealing with the issue, but in this country it is wrong, immoral, and illegal.

The one thing that needs to occur with people who immigrate to this country is that they MUST adopt our laws. Perhaps not our customs and ways, but they MUST adapt to our laws. If their customs conflict with our laws, then their customs must be abandoned or adapted so as to conform with our laws. Right or wrong, that is what MUST happen.

Again, thanks for clearing up the issues regarding your friend. It is a shame that his record will be used against him in any future proceedings, HOWEVER, it is a method used by all prosecutors to show a pattern of neglect for our laws. In his case, it may not be fair, but it is how things are done in this country.

Be well.
Being the republican that you are, why would you care about Hmong people anyway?
I'm sorry? I'm a republican, and a hunter. I too care about the Hmong people. What difference does that make?? Do you think that republicans are racists?

I think you have forgotten your history. The civil rights movement, abolishment of slavery, etc. were all started by the Republicans. Nothing against the dems, but what point does party have to do with this issue?

Or....are you just flaming in to start an argument?
"The one thing that needs to occur with people who immigrate to this country is that they MUST adopt our laws. Perhaps not our customs and ways, but they MUST adapt to our laws"

It's funny that the WhiteMen didn't not adapt to the Native of American laws and customs but murder most of them. And not only that but force their laws and customs among them..Sorry no culture is perfect.
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