Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Child marriage

Child marriage by very young children is under discussion again in Saudi Arabia, the Wall Street Journal reports. Part of the issue is just how young should count as young: Cleric Fights Saudi Bid to Ban Child Marriages

"RIYADH, Saudi Arabia—A senior Saudi cleric issued a religious ruling to allow fathers to arrange marriages for their daughters "even if they are in the cradle," setting up a confrontation between government reformers and influential conservative clergy.

"Sheik Saleh al-Fawzan, one of the country's most important clerics, issued the ruling after the Justice Ministry said this month it would act to regulate marriages between prepubescent girls and men in the Islamic kingdom.
"The fatwa marks the second time in a year that religious authorities have knocked back a government initiative to move forward on social issues involving women.

"Last year, King Abdullah bin Abdelaziz al-Saud pushed for higher female employment, suggesting that women ought to be allowed to work as supermarket cashiers, only for the job to be ruled off-limits to the gender by the Grand Mufti, the country's highest religious leader.

"In the conservative Islamic kingdom, women aren't allowed to drive and can't work, travel abroad or undergo surgery without the permission of a male relative.
"Saudi media reported that the Justice Ministry would push ahead with setting a minimum age for marriage, despite the fatwa. The ministry couldn't be reached to comment for this article.

"In recent months, a spate of stories about young Saudi girls being forced by their fathers to marry middle-age men for lavish dowries or other personal gains has prompted editorials in local media denouncing the practice and calling for change.

"In April, the English-language Arab News reported that a court granted a 12-year-old girl a rare divorce from her 80-year-old husband, who had paid her father a dowry of 85,000 Saudi riyals, or $23,000.
""Scholars have agreed that it was permissible for fathers to marry off their young daughters, even if they are in the cradle," Sheik Fawzan wrote in his fatwa. "But it isn't permissible for their husbands to have sex with them unless they are capable of being placed beneath and bearing the weight of the men."

"He cited the example of the prophet's wife Aisha, who he said was wed at the age of six, but didn't have sex until she was nine.

"Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti said in 2009 that it was acceptable for girls aged 10 and above to marry."

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