Saudi Arabia: Senior Saudi Cleric OKs Girls to Marry
"A female who is 10 or 12 is marriageable and those who think she's too young are wrong and are being unfair to her," he said during a Monday lecture, according to the pan-Arab Al-Hayat newspaper.
Al Sheikh's comments come at a time when Saudi human rights groups have been pushing the government to put an end to marriages involving the very young and to define a minimum age for marriage. In the past few months, Saudi newspapers have highlighted several cases in which young girls were married off to much older men or very young boys.
Though the mufti's pronouncements are respected and provide guidance, the government is not legally bound by them.
On Sunday, the government-run Human Rights Commission condemned marriages of minor girls, saying such marriages are an "inhumane violation" and rob children of their rights.
The commission's statement followed a ruling by a court in Oneiza in central Saudi Arabia last month that dismissed a divorce petition by the mother of an eight-year-old girl whose father married her off to a man in his 50s.
Newspaper reports said the court argued that the mother did not have the right to file such a case on behalf of her daughter and said that the petition should be filed by the girl when she reaches puberty.
Responding to a question about parents who force their underage daughters to marry, the mufti said: "We hear a lot about the marriage of underage girls in the media, and we should know that Islamic law has not brought injustice to women."
The mufti said a good upbringing will make a girl capable of carrying out her duties as a wife and that those who say women should not marry before the age of 25 are following a "bad path."
"Our mothers and before them, our grandmothers, married when they were barely 12," said Al Sheikh, according to Al-Hayat.
There are no statistics to show how many marriages involving children are performed in Saudi Arabia every year. And it's also not clear whether these unions are on the rise or whether people are hearing about them more now because of the prevalence of media outlets and easy access to the Internet.
Activists say the girls are given away in return for hefty dowries or as a result of long-standing custom in which a father promises his infant daughters and sons to cousins out of a belief that marriage will protect them from illicit relationships.
14 January 2009
By: Donna Abu-Nasr
Source: Associated Press
A doctor in Saudi Arabia was able to stop the wedding of a five and 11 year-old whose family wanted to marry them to protect financial assets. "Thanks to the law that compels spouses to carry out blood analyses before marriage, we were able to stop a wedding with underage girls, among them a five year-old," said Hani Harsani, the doctor in charge of laboratory analysis in an interview with Saudi daily al-Watan.
"Two sisters came to us accompanied by their parents to undergo pre-marital blood analyses. The first one was five, and the other 11 years-old. When we asked the mother why they wanted to do the tests, she told us that she wanted to marry the girls to cousins to preserve the family's property rights."
During the interview, Harsani remembers an episode when a 10-year-old orphan was brought to do pre-marital blood tests by her brother, who wanted to marry the sister to a 40-year-old friend who already had two other wives.
"We cannot technically impede a marriage with a girl of this age. However, we can delay the process (by refusing to carry out the tests)," said Harsani.
"I hope a law can be passed sooner rather than later to establish a minimum age for marriage."
Pre-marital blood tests are compulsory in Saudi Arabia to ensure the spouses are in good health, but also to prevent the spread of hereditary diseases to the children.
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