I’ve been wanting to write this post all day but I just couldn’t get myself to do it. I wanted to write about how frustrated and sad I am, but what does it matter how I feel standing as a helpless onlooker, reading these horror stories about 10, 12 and 13 year olds being legally and openly married (read sold off) to men decades their seniors. I’ve gone through all the emotions and now I’m weary of the nightmare scenarios going through my head as I imagine what these poor children are going through. So let me just state the facts:
In Najran, a city in the south of Saudi a thirteen year old girl was married off to a man in his fifties. Everyone in the family opposed the marriage including the girl’s grandfather and uncle but nothing could be done to stop it. According to a family member, the father went through with it because he wanted to use her dowry money for a new car.
In another case, a sheikh, Saeed Al Jaleel, has come out saying that a couple of years back he was asked to marry a 10 year old girl to a 34 year old man. He tried to stop the marriage. He spoke to the girl’s mother to try to get her to object, he tried to convince the father not to go through with it but they both insisted. His hands were tied since there are no regulations, and he married them.
And finally you have this story in Arab News:
NAJRAN: A marriage official (mazoun) in the southern city of Najran has told a local Arabic daily that he had married a minor girl who is barely 12 years old and consummated their marriage after only two and a half months….”When my mother insisted I consummate my marriage, I had to summon up the courage for two weeks before I was able to have sex with her,” he said. He said when he first saw her, he was shocked by her fragility and added that he spent a long time trying to understand how to treat her.”
Since reforms have started the only thing that has been implemented is that women can book into a hotel without a male guardian’s permission. A small step but now the time is ripe for criminalizing wedlock pedophilia. And don’t give me that line that the prophet PBUH married Aisha when she was 9 years old. That’s disputed and historians have shown that she was actually 19.
So many Saudis tired and upset about these stories, including members of the royal family. A huge campaign and petition organized by one of the biggest women magazines in the Middle East, Sayidaty, and signed by icons and leaders, all this and nothing to show for it.
Women are still considered legally minors no matter how old they are, banned from driving, and at the mercy of their guardians when it comes to education, work, marriage, divorce and child custody.
We need laws to instate our rights as human beings and protect our daughters from these horrors.