RED EYE

World’s Smallest Country Legalized Same Sex Marriage But Has History Of Allowing Child Rape

Pitcairn-IslandPitcairn Island, a tiny group of islands in the southern Pacific Ocean, recently drew attention as being the world’s smallest nation — it has a population of around 50 people — to legalize same-sex marriage, even though they have no openly gay couples living there.

Anyone thinking of visiting the island for an exotic destination wedding may want to give it a second thought, however, considering the island’s history of decades of widely permitted child molestation and rape among its citizens.

The island nation became a British Overseas Territory in 1838, but the tiny group of four islands is very difficult to reach, with no landing areas for airplanes and rough seas making it almost impossible for large ships to dock. As a result, British oversight for the past century or so has been virtually nonexistent, allowing the residents to live mostly in a system of self-governance. Unfortunately, the island’s male citizens came up with the idea of “breaking in” girls at the age of 12 by subjecting them to all sorts of violent sex — the men raping the girls, encouraging teenage boys to do the same, the adult women condoning the encounters as simply their way of life. There was no concern with Britain’s laws on sexual assault or that pesky “age of consent” thing that gets in the way of a guy just wanting to have a good time.

Vanity Fair published an enormous 10,000-word exposé on the island’s troubles after several of the adult males living there were convicted of numerous sex crimes and jailed in the early 2000s; those men usually admitted what they did because they didn’t realize it was illegal (or wrong):

…childhood sex games and abuse were commonplace, as were pregnancies and abortions among young, unmarried girls. London officials [were shocked by] reports that “early sexual (manipulation for comforting babies) activity”—much as other societies might use a pacifier—“has been a feature of island life at least for many years…[women] recounted a violent “breaking in” at ages under 12, others a common continuance of unwanted trysts—accepting a scooter ride to island hideaways, where they would lie docilely under banyan trees or behind the sugar mill for sex they neither wanted nor resisted.”

The story is just one more chapter in the island nation’s bizarre history. The people who live on Pitcairn Island are mostly descendants of the crew that worked on the famed HMS Bounty, who in the 1700’s infamously set the ship’s commanding officers adrift on the open seas after staging a mutiny (the story inspired the film Mutiny on the Bounty). The mutineers, and a smattering of Polynesian women they picked up in their travels, settled there and survived off fishing and growing food on small garden plots.

Now connected to the rest of the world via the internet, the nation legalized same-sex marriage after a suggestion from the government of Great Britain, where marriage equality is legal. Pitcairn locals now joke that there are no gay couples on the island to get married; but with the widespread physical and sexual violence permeating life on the island, there is likely no way for local residents to come out safely.