Yet, while the phenomenon of child marriage may have a global span, most of these child marriages take place in predominantly Islamic countries spread throughout the Middle East, South Asia and Africa.
The deeply rooted Islamic attachment to prepubescent marriage finds religious justification in the Prophet Muhammad’s marriage to a six-year-old child bride, a marriage consummated when she was nine-years-old, following her first menstruation.
In fact, determining when a girl reaches her first menstruation is the threshold by which Islamic religious leaders and scholars determine the basis for what age is proper for a girl to be married off; some believe this begins by or before age 10, while others think by the age of 15.
As such, the need to adhere to these Sharia-based marital guidelines has made governments in completely or even predominately Muslim countries reluctant to ban underage marriages.
In predominantly Muslim Malaysia, for example, the Minister of Legal Affairs has said girls below the age of 16 are allowed to marry as long as they obtain the permission of the religious courts, arguing, “If the religion allows it, then we can’t legislate against it. Islam allows it as long as the girl is considered to have reached her pubescent stage, once she has her menstruation.”
Yet, even in Muslim countries where child marriage is illegal, Islamists often simply ignore the law, allowing for religious leaders to approve “informal marriages” for underage girls, marriages which allow spouses to live in the same home and have children, but which is only legally registered once she turns 18.
While most would find it hard to believe that a 15-year-old-girl, let alone a nine-year-old girl, is physically or emotionally ready to start engaging in sexual activity and carrying a child, others think that girls barely removed from the womb are more than fully capable of handling those activities.
That enlightened attitude was on display in January when one of Saudi Arabia’s most influential clerics, Sheik Saleh al-Fawzan, issued a fatwa allowing fathers to arrange marriages for their daughters “even if they are in the cradle.”
However, lest anyone think a man would actually engage in sex with such a young infant, al-Fawzan was quick to add that it wasn’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.”
Given that, it’s not surprising that many believe that underage marriage is little more than legally permissible and religiously sanctioned pedophilia. Yet, some defenders of the horrid practice argue that critics have no moral or ethical qualms about child marriage but are instead driven by less than pure concerns.
One such person is Yemeni Sheik Mohammed Hamzi, an imam and official of the Islamist Yemeni opposition party, Islaah. Hamzi had been asked his opinion in reaction to international complaints to the death of a 13-year-old Yemeni child bride who bled to death after being tied down and forced to have sex with her 23-year-old husband.
Hamzi simply ascribed their dissatisfaction due to the fact that “No one wants to marry these women’s-rights activists anyway. They’re just depressed and jealous that they are not married.”
Tragically, there’s no such shortage of marital suitors for the ten million little girls set in the coming year to join the ranks of the world’s burgeoning child bride community, a sisterhood that grows increasingly younger with each passing year.
Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.
Pages: 1 2