Page last updated at 19:17 GMT, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

US father sells daughter for beer

Map of California
The legal age of consent in California is 18

A man has been arrested in California after allegedly arranging for his 14-year-old daughter to marry a neighbour in exchange for beer, meat and $16,000.

Police said they learnt of the deal when Marcelino de Jesus Martinez came to them asking for help after his neighbour failed to pay up.

He faces charges of human trafficking, statutory rape and child cruelty.

Police also arrested the intended groom, 18-year-old Margarito de Jesus Galindo, for alleged statutory rape.

Police believe the girl went willingly with Mr Galindo, but under California law she is under the legal age of consent and cannot marry.

Mr Martinez is a member of the indigenous Mexican Trique community.

Community leaders in Greenfield, a farming community on California's central coast, have defended Mr Martinez.

They say arranging marriages and exchanging goods for the wedding are common among the Trique, although money is not usually part of the transaction.

"No one put a for sale sign on this girl, and that's how it sounds," said Rufino Dominguez, an indigenous immigrant and member of the Binational Center for the Development of the Indigenous Communities.

We're aware of the cultural issues here, but state law trumps cultural sensitivity
Joe Grebmeier

Greenfield police chief

Greenfield police chief Joe Grebmeier said the case highlighted an issue the region, which has a high number of migrant workers, had been struggling with.

"This is not a traditional trafficking case because there is no force or coercion in this," Mr Grebmeier said.

"We're aware of the cultural issues here, but state law trumps cultural sensitivity."

Mr Gebmeier said that when his officers began investigating the case, the Trique community had not been aware that it was against the law to arrange a marriage for money with a minor.

Many Trique immigrants come to California looking for work in the state's fruit and vegetable farms.

Often they only speak Trique, and even in Mexico their cultural traditions can set them apart.

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