Furore continues over Saudi child’s marriage

Posted on October 9, 2010

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Source: Emirates 24/7

55-year-old man was reported to be marrying a 13-year-old girl

Picture used for illustrative purposes only. (SUPPLIED)

Saudi Arabia’s newspapers Saturday kept up the heat against the marriage of a 12-year-old girl to a 55-year-old local man while the child’s uncle described the wedding as a “sale deal conducted by her father.”

“These acts should be stopped,” said the Arabic language daily Shams, just a few days after another major newspaper, Alwatan, described the marriage of the girl in the southern province of Jazan as “a new tragedy.”

In its report early this week, Alwatan put the girl’s age at 13 but newspapers Saturday said she was only 12 years old.

“I strongly denounce this marriage,” said her uncle, identified by his first name as Mohammed. “It was a unique marriage as it was concealed…I think we should not call it a marriage but a sale deal for SR40,000.”

The 55-year-old Saudi married the girl, a student at a Koran memorization centre in Jazan near the Yemeni border, despite strong objections from her grandfather. The marriage also sparked angry reaction from a local human rights group.

Alwatan said the girl reportedly told the local Maazoun (Muslim cleric) she agrees to marry the man, a retired employee.
“The girl’s father blessed the marriage although the bridegroom is above 50 years old. Her grandfather objected to the marriage and said he has nothing to do with his son’s behaviour,” it added.

It said the man had apparently took advantage of the difficult financial conditions of the bride’s father to pay a big sum of money and marry his daughter.

The wedding took place amid increasing calls by Saudi officials and Muslim scholars to curb child marriages in the conservative Muslim nation.
Saudi Arabia’s Shura (appointed parliament) debated the phenomenon last week and said it was considering enacting laws to stop such marriages.

Saudi Justice Minister Mohammed Al Issa said last month the Gulf Kingdom, one of the most conservative Muslim nations, is planning to enact a law to regulate the marriage of teenage girls following a surge in such weddings and growing criticism by human rights groups and other international agencies.

He said the new regulations are needed to put an end to what he described as widespread controversy and confusion about such marriages.
“The Ministry is studying a draft law to regulate the marriage of teenage girls,” he said, without giving details of the law and the date of its enforcement.
“The marriage of teenage and underage girls in the country is not a phenomenon yet as some claim… those who say this are wrong. We are considering regulations in line with the Islamic Shariah to govern this kind of marriage.”

Al Issa said he hoped the new law would contribute to “ending all problems and confusion associated with female teen age marriage”.

He said the Maazoun has the authority to refrain from consummating the marriage if he has any suspicions regarding this marriage.

In a report Thursday, Okaz newspaper quoted a statement by the Saudi Human Rights Authority (HRA) as saying this marriage violates the girl’s rights.
“We have set up a committee to study this case and the circumstances involved…the marriage constitutes a violation of the rights of this child, who at this age needs to be cared by her family, pursue her education and enjoy her childhood,” the statement said, according to ‘Okaz’.

“We call upon all members of the community to rally against the marriage of children and teenagers. Media institutions should also play a bigger role in defending children and their rights.”

Quoted by local newspapers Saturday, the Maazoun, Sheikh Saeed bin Masoud Al Yami, said he consummated that marriage after the girl’s father gave him his approval. He said he also was told by the girl she agrees to the marriage.

“I asked her if she agrees to marry that man and she said yes…her agreement is sufficient for the consummation of this marriage,” he said. “I know this man…he is well reputed and he and is new wife are very happy in their marriage life.”

Yami said he performed another marriage two years ago, involving a 10-year-old girl and a 34-year-old bridegroom.
“I tried to dissuade her parents but they insisted on her marriage…there are no laws in the country preventing such marriages…the only condition for performing them is that the bride has to give her consent,” he said.

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