The man who married the 12-year-old girl said he was goaded into consummating the union by his mother and that it took “several attempts over two weeks” to accomplish, even as the girl expressed her bewilderment about “why her parents gave her away to me.”
Middle East Online After more than two years of media coverage of the negative consequences of marriage and sex for minor girls, the government has yet to set a minimum age for marriage. Activists say officials fear a backlash from religious conservatives.
The marriage of a government official to a 12-year-old girl has inflamed a long simmering battle over marriage to minors, pitting Saudi human rights activists and at least one prominent Muslim sheikh against government officials who have been accused of failing to curb the widespread practice. The fact that the unidentified groom, who lives in the city of Najran, was a mazoun, or marriage official, whose job it is to preside over the signing of marriage contracts, only added to the outrage over the marriage among many Saudis.
Some tribal elders also see nothing wrong in giving young girls in marriage. Many families marry their daughters to older men for financial benefits, getting payments from grooms in advance and if a marriage is broken.
But many traditionalists in this conservative country believe early marriage protects their daughters from premarital relationships, pointing to active support from senior clerics such as Sheikh Abdul Aziz al Sheikh, Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti.
“If a girl exceeds 10 or 12 then she is eligible for marriage, and whoever thinks she is too young, then he or she is wrong and has done her an injustice,’’ Sheikh Abdul Aziz told an audience in Riyadh University last year. Many argue that Islamic law in fact permits such marriages, citing the Prophet Mohammed’s marriage to Aysha when she was nine.
The man said he had had sex with the girl after two months of marriage, although her father asked that a physical relationship not begin until a year after marriage.
Debate over the issue has raged in the pages of newspapers and community websites. “Any man who desires or performs sex with a little girl, and that is what a 12-year-old female child is sick in the head,” wrote one woman, who identified herself as Shana Badawi, in the English-language Arab News.
Another reader by the name of Mohammed Rehman countered: “Are you Muslim or what? What age did your mother Aisha, may Allah be please with her, marry? … next time think of the Islamic legislation before the western view!”
Saudi human-rights advocates have pleaded with members of the consultative Shura Council for a strong recommendation in favour of a minimum marriage age. But members of the council, whose members are appointed by King Abdullah, say the country’s conservative nature makes that very difficult. H/T TROP
Saudi Cleric confirms that Islam allows marriage with girls as young as one year old.