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  • » 08/07/2008, 00.00


    Marriage between 11-year-old boy and 10-year-old girl puts the spotlight on child marriage

    Supporters of the practice argue that marriage takes place in two phases; first comes the agreement, then after puberty the brides moves in with her husband. Opponents stress that a woman’s consent is paramount; they demand a law to regulate the matter.
    Riyadh (AsiaNews) – When an 11-year-old boy gave out invitations to his classmates for his wedding to a 10-year-old cousin, the issue of child marriage was back the centre of public debate in Saudi Arabia.

    Muhammad Al-Rashidi’s marriage was eventually put on hold after the governor of Hail put pressure on his father, but it did place the spotlight on a problem that is not limited to Saudi Arabia. In April in fact, an eight-year-old Yemeni girl sought out a judge to file for divorce from a man nearly four times her age.

    Positions on the issue are not inconsequential. For Zuhair Al-Harithy, board member of the Human Rights Commission, “these marriages violate international agreements the Kingdom has signed. We are studying this issue so we can put an end to this phenomenon.”

    In Saudi Arabia there are no laws defining the minimum age for marriage, nor any data on how many marriages involve children.

    Although a woman’s consent is legally required, some marriage officials do not seek it. Fathers can marry off a one-year-old girl as long as sex is delayed until she reaches puberty and the groom and the woman’s guardian (which each woman must have) approve.

    Ahmad Al-Muabi, a marriage official, defended the practice saying that a man “can enter a marriage contract with a one-year-old girl, not to mention nine years, seven years or eight years. This is just a contract indicating consent.”

    For Sheikh Muhammad Al-Nujaimi, a scholar and a strong opponent of child marriages, “there are different (religious) opinions regarding marriage, which is why we need the government to settle the issue through legislation.”

    Human rights activists agree. They also warn that child marriages can hide unlawful relations.

    Even Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh finds himself indirectly among the opponents of the practice.

    “Islam has stipulated that both parties agree to the marriage contract,” he said. “The woman must express real consent to the suitor, and a guardian must not impose his choice of husband on her” or force her to marry someone she doesn’t want.

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    See also

    07/10/2010 SAUDI ARABIA
    Saudi human rights groups against the marriage between a child bride and a 50-year-old man
    The country’s human rights commission reiterates the need for a minimum age for marriage. The Shura Council, the kingdom’s consultative assembly, tells its committee dealing with social affairs, family and youth to study the issue and file a report to the council for discussion.

    26/06/2007 SAUDI ARABIA
    One acquittal and more charges against Saudi religious police
    Media coverage of cases involving illegal activities by the Mutawwa'în seems to indicate that something is happening to hitherto unchecked power of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.

    16/04/2009 SAUDI ARABIA
    Saudi court confirms validity of marriage for eight-year-old girl
    Criticisms from UNICEF and the U.S. State Department. The Riyadh justice minister himself says that he wants to put an end to the arbitrary power of parents who arrange marriages for minor children, but does not mention any ban.

    17/06/2006 PAKISTAN
    Two Muslims accused of blasphemy murdered in two days
    The first victim is an imam accused of burning some pages of the Qur'an. The other is a man accused of uttering blasphemous words during an altercation with a lorry driver and was murdered near a courthouse.

    16/02/2017 14:31:00 UNITED KINGDOM – SAUDI ARABIA
    Arms sales to Saudi Arabia and victims in Yemen put London on trial

    The High Court has started a review of arms sale to Saudi Arabia that allegedly led to civilian casualties in Yemen. A growing number of UK lawmakers are calling for a review of the contract. For 62 per cent of Britons, arms sales to the Saudis is "unacceptable".

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