Photo Credit: Faithfreedom.org
Saudi Arabia has a youth problem. Half the country is under twenty years of age (1). And since boys and girls are not allowed to be alone together, there are millions of horny young Arabs with hormones ready to explode (I know what you are thinking, young Arabs, ready to explode, heh heh).
Until the 1960s most Saudis were nomadic or semi-nomadic and young men and women were not watched as closely as they are today, and even if the girls were guarded too closely there was always a sheep or a goat nearby to satisfy a young man. However, due to rapid economic and urban growth, more than 95% of the population now is settled and goats are not as easy to come by and if you do get your hands on one, there are never enough discreet alleyways in the big cities.
Which reminds of a joke I told in a previous article:
Q. Why do Muslims wear those robes in Saudi Arabia?
A. Goats can hear a zipper a mile away.
But I digress.
For almost all countries (with minor variations), the marriageable age for men is 18 and for women 16. But in Saudi Arabia (and some other Muslim countries) there is no minimum age for marriage. A girl one year old can get married. You may recall the recent case of an eight-year-old girl married off by her father to a man who is 58 (2).
The reason that girls this young can be married is to prevent rape or illicit sex. Yeah, you are reading right. Since men and women cannot be alone together, men get very frustrated and if they cannot vent this frustration legally, they will go out and either rape some poor girl or if the girl is not married off while young there is the chance that she will engage in an illicit relationship.
So here's the thing: to prevent a ten year old girl from playing house with ten year old boy and having illicit relations, the father marries off the young girl, makes some money, and if she has sex, there is no stain on the family honor because she is "married." Makes sense to me.
The following YouTube video Muslim Girl Age 12 Fears For Her Life From Husband is about a child-bride in Afghanistan where the legal age for marriage is 16 for females yet according to the UN, more than half of marriages involve females under 16 (3).
I found the video unbearable to watch.
A tip of the turban to Bare Naked Islam.
Wikipedia, Demographics of Saudi Arabia - 2009
UK Daily Mail, 22 Dec 2008, Saudi court tells girl aged EIGHT she cannot divorce husband who is 50 years her senior
A Saudi court has rejected a plea to divorce an eight-year-old girl married off by her father to a man who is 58, saying the case should wait until the girl reaches puberty.
The divorce plea was filed in August by the girl's divorced mother with a court at Unayzah, 135 miles north of Riyadh just after the marriage contract was signed by the father and the groom.
Lawyer Abdullar Jtili said:"The judge has dismissed the plea, filed by the mother, because she does not have the right to file such a case, and ordered that the plea should be filed by the girl herself when she reaches puberty.
[Update: 30 April 2009: the mother of the girl obtained a divorce for her daughter through an out-of-the-court negotiation.]
IRIN Asia - a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 13 July 2005, AFGHANISTAN: Child marriage still widespread
Nearly 60 percent of marriages in Afghanistan involve girls below the legal age of 16, according to reports from the Ministry of Women's Affairs and NGOs. Some girls are married as young as nine.
Rights and health activists say that such marriages increase the maternal mortality rate and deny young women an education or any kind of independent life. Often, after a child marriage, husbands and/or parents-in-law refuse to allow the child-wife to go to school under threat of violence.
“Badakhshan [northeastern province] has the highest maternal mortality rate in the country and one of the main reason is under-age marriages - even as young as seven in some cases. This needs to be addressed,” Paul Greening a project officer of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said on Wednesday in Kabul.