A besotted teenager will let nothing stand in her way. But, says Angela Phillips, it is the responsibility of parents to highlight the pitfalls of ...
When Juliet fell for Romeo she was 14 years old and willing to die for him. Young love is powerful just because it strikes like a thunderbolt, uncontaminated by the experience of loss that so often makes older lovers cautious. Sarah Cook's parents were faced with a common dilemma. They had to provide guidance to a child who had been catapulted into an emotional situation that she didn't have the experience to handle. Sadly, they not only failed to provide her with support, but they are also set to profit by their failure by selling her story to the Sun. As a result, they have pushed their daughter on to the centre stage of a dispute that is as much about cultural difference and national pride as it is about the lives of two very young people.

The Turkish government has moved in with the full weight of the law, as much to uphold their own reputation as a modern, and moral, democracy, as to intervene in a particularly difficult human drama. Eighteen-year- old Musa Komeagae now faces a possible jail sentence, which would leave his young bride alone in a strange country among people whose language she doesn't even understand. Her notoriety will make it difficult for her to return to Britain and continue her education. The sound and fury generated by the media has tied the hands of anyone who might genuinely have wished to help.

That Sarah fell in love is not surprising, nor is it unusual. As the age of puberty drops, the number of girls physically capable of getting pregnant at 13 is rising. The hormonal and emotional changes that go with puberty were designed to make young women want sex. It is cultural, not biological, constraint that has created a gap between the moment when a girl is physically capable and the point at which societies decide that sex is reasonable.

In our own culture we have made a further separation. It is commonplace for under-16s to have sex but we frown on teenage pregnancy, and we do so because we believe that young people will have better lives if they postpone the responsibility of parenthood until they have learned more about themselves and established their own lives.

Sarah's parents must know that what they have allowed their daughter to do will have serious consequences for her future. To suggest that they had no power to stop her is disingenuous to say the least.

Had Sarah been having sex with a boy who lived around the corner they might have had a problem. In this case the solution was straightforward. It is unlikely that a 13-year-old could have raised the money to fly to Turkey. She would have been unhappy, she would have written his name on her wall, and in time she would have found another boy to love. She may well still have become a teenage mother. It wouldn't have been ideal but at least she would have been in a familiar community, and she wouldn't have had the details of her sex life spread across the national newspapers of two countries.

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