Maynard’s Multicultural Corner
There is growing pressure to end child marriages in Saudi Arabia.
An 11-year-old boy gave out invitations to his classmates for a big event his family was planning this
summer – andit wasn’t his birthday party. It was his wedding to a 10-year-old cousin. Muhammad Al-Rashidi’s marriage was eventually put on hold, his father said, after pressure from the governor of the northern province of Hail, who considered the elementary school student too young to marry…. Muraiziq Al-Rashidi, the 11-year-old boy’s father, told AP he will delay his son’s marriage only by a year. “God willing, we will hold the wedding next year,” he said.
A marriage involving a child won’t necessarily be immediately consummated.
Al-Muabi, the marriage official, told Lebanese-run LBC TV that because marriage in Islam takes place in two stages – a marriage contract can be signed months or even years before a woman moves in with her husband – that means a 1-year-old girl can be married off. A man “can enter a marriage contract with a 1-year-old girl, not to mention 9 years, 7 years or 8 years,” said Al-Muabi. “This is just a contract indicating consent, and the guardian in this case must be the father.
The Wikipedia article on the global age of consent (see map or this table) indicates Saudi Arabia doesn’t have a statutory age, other than the requirement that the sanctity of marriage be enforced. Some Islamic sources look to the example of Mohammad’s wives. Mohammed married 11 or 13 women (reports differ), although not all at one time. His favorite wife Aisha was six or seven years old when betrothed, but the marriage wasn’t consummated until she was nine. Mohammad was in his fifties.
This article surprised me with a statistic that the Saudi divorce rate had leapt from 25% to 60% over the last 20 years. Many of us in the West have been concerned about the broken homes and untended children that have come about as our traditional social structures have been discarded. Apparently there is a parallel phenomenon in a distant land of rigid and legally-enforced social structures. Interesting.
It’s also worth noting that, just as the Saudis have a problem with child marriages and a high divorce rate, they also have witches. But they know what to do with them.
Human Rights Watch has appealed to Saudi Arabia to halt the execution of a woman convicted of witchcraft.