Childhood Defined (for boys at least)

On January 18th, news came out that the Saudi Council has come out with a proposal to define childhood as from birth to the age of 18. And the discussion about age definition came about as a preclude to approve a new child protection system that includes protecting children from physical, psychological, and sexual abuse and prosecuting neglect. There was some back and forth about lowering it to 15 but eventually in a second meeting it was established that 18 is the decision for now at least.

Don’t get too excited though because I bet just like me, it occurred to you that hey that means no more child marriages. Unfortunately that turns out to be not the case, as they had decided that the issue of child marriages is too complex. I don’t know what to make of it so I’m just going to give you a word for word translation of how AlRiyadh Newspaper reported the child marriages discussion:

وفيما يتعلق بتزويج القاصرات واعتباره كنوع من أشكال الإساءة للأطفال والاعتداء على حقوقهم قال بكري ” الموضوع شائك ” وأضاف: تحديد سن الطفولة ب18 سنة يعتبر إشارة لحظر زواج الفتيات دون هذا السن،عدا أن هناك خلافا وجدلا واسعا حول تعريف أو تحديد من هي القاصر.

With regards to the marriage of minors and considering it as a form of child abuse and human rights violation, Bakri said “The issue is thorny” adding: “determining the age of childhood at 18 years is a reference to the prohibition of marriage for girls under this age, except that there is a dispute and wide discussion on the definition and designation of who is a minor”.

Confused? So am I. Bottom line child marriages is not included in the new child protection system. That means according to Saudi law marrying off an 11-year-old to a man in his fifties is not physical, psychological, and sexual abuse nor neglect. If you’re upset about this, the child marriages petition on is still standing and every signature goes directly to the Ministry of Justice.

There is some good news though. A group of Saudi women have started a hashtag on Twitter #Saudiwomenrevolution and there were some heated debates on there. There was also a group of men and women who tried to put down the whole cause, claiming that Saudi women are lucky and honored. Also that calling for women rights is a Western conspiracy to corrupt Muslim women. Another recurrent theme with the naysayers is accusations that anyone calling for women rights has to have come from an abused background, in other words, trying to shame women into quiet.

Meanwhile a group of Saudi women go out and do what the men are too afraid to do; a group of 40 women protested in front of the interior ministry last week to demand freedom or at least open and fair trials for their imprisoned relatives.

The group who started the #Saudiwomenrevolution have started a Facebook page and are trying to get organized with a proper list of demands. This is the link to their page.

Recommended reading:

Quiet Revolution: The Saudi, Female Brain Drain by the past editor of Saudi Gazette, Rob L. Wagner.

For those who claim that child marriages are Islamic or that the Prophet married Aisha when she was a child, I have two links for you:

الرسول تزوج عائشة وعمرها 19عاماً

And this one pointed out to me by Abdulmouhsen Al Madani:

Rejecting the Myth of Sanctioned Child Marriage in Islam


Filed under Child marriages, Gender Apartheid, Women campaigns

35 responses to “Childhood Defined (for boys at least)

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Childhood Defined (for boys at least) | Saudiwoman's Weblog --

  2. Brad C.

    Why don’t they just see this for what it is – pedophilia.? Would they do this to their own children? Are they doing this to their own children?


  3. With all this talk about the West more or less conspiring against our ‘modest’ society of men and women one would assume that the Saudi Regime was not already in bed with much of the West; Washington payroll included of course.

    A defunct and highly perverse regime attempts to not only decide what a vast group of people, men and women, may or may not do as prescribed by their own schools of thought and people dare shame away dissidence?

    Nothing can bring our people, the Arabs, justice but what fruits they bear from their own hands. If Saudi women wish to break free they need to put themselves in a position much like those in Tunisia and Egypt. This is jihad; to struggle in the way of Allah against oppression and subjugation of our sisters, of one another.

    Great blog, I should have been reading it sooner.

    • I think we (Saudi women) need to be organized first🙂

      • Jenna

        Great post. It’s funny how the countries that decry Western values to their people are in bed with Western governments taking their money (Pakistan) or going to their Presidential homes for parties in Texas (KSA). I guess only the leaders “enjoy” Western extravagance?

        As an American I am outraged that domestically we enjoy freedom as women but the international policy is to “ignore the oppression” of women as long as it suits their political agenda. Only when a country isn’t playing by our rules (China) do we start to cry “human rights outrage!” Its a hypocrisy that breaks my heart. Because Americans by and large believe in equal rights it really is a value we hold dear but it has been hijacked by our government.

        So forget about East vs West, forget about our nations ruling both of us… its woman to woman. I would rather die than let my young daughter be married to some old nasty man, or any man! There are some things that are just morally WRONG no matter who tries to spin it we know in our hearts how it is.

      • ali


      • ali

        They are too busy competing to be organized.. competing with each other.

  4. It’s simply wrong,it’s called pedophilia.Great hash tag,and I’ve joined them.I’m hoping it will be more than an online thing🙂

  5. Sameena

    Go Eman! Hope win the most votes for your weblog!

  6. Flame

    Saudigirl, In your place, I would not use this link
    because what you can gain when you dump Bukhari? “Sahih Bukhari is a collection of sayings and deeds of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), also known as the sunnah. The reports of the Prophet’s sayings and deeds are called ahadith. Bukhari lived a couple of centuries after the Prophet’s death and worked extremely hard to collect his ahadith. Each report in his collection was checked for compatibility with the Qur’an, and the veracity of the chain of reporters had to be painstakingly established. Bukhari’s collection is recognized by the overwhelming majority of the Muslim world to be one of the most authentic collections of the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH).”
    so if you use Rejecting the Myth of Sanctioned Child Marriage in Islam – where are ahadiths from Bukhari cumped as unreliable – you have dumped whole sunnah. even if you claim that there are some “unreliable” Iraqi hadiths – if those are “unreliable” how you can be sure that others are ok? and how you know that only those from Iraq and concerning Aishah are not correct, when it comes to her age?

  7. Sandy

    I think the sooner Muslims start using a LOT more discernment with Hadith the better. Bukhari lived 200 years after the prophet. Yet Islam was practiced in that time. Hadith is a SOURCE of Sunnah. Not Sunnah itself. Not infallible. It is interesting and a guide, but not guaranteed like the Quran. And it’s misuse and abuse is the source of the worst fitnah and bidah we have. And a way that clergy has controlled the Ummah.

    I do not doubt that Bukhari was as careful as he could be or that his intentions were good. But the methods and information was imperfect and limited. Those stories went through centuries and political situations and I don’t believe they could survive unaffected.

    • Flame

      “But the methods and information was imperfect and limited. Those stories went through centuries and political situations and I don’t believe they could survive unaffected.”
      ah, so when it comes to the subject how to pray, or how to make umrah, by some miracle of miracles hadiths are reliable. but when it comes to this issuee, reliability of hadiths is waxing.

      “But the methods and information was imperfect and limited. Those stories went through centuries and political situations and I don’t believe they could survive unaffected.” the same can be said about Quran – remember big Quran burning party organised by Uthman. so if you can believe in “preserved” quran, why you throw out hadiths?
      look, take it easy – anything did your prophet is ok. no moral or ethics can be applied on him.

      • Sandy

        “ah, so when it comes to the subject how to pray, or how to make umrah, by some miracle of miracles hadiths are reliable. but when it comes to this issuee, reliability of hadiths is waxing.”
        That is not at all what I said.

        I am aware of the Quran burning. That took place right at the beginning- when many MANY people knew first hand the contents. Hadith was centuries later. You can’t see a difference? Even from a position of no faith, clearly one is likely to be FAR more accurate at a minimum.

  8. Sandy

    The truth is though, at whatever age a woman is allowed to marry- she is never really allowed to be a grown-up. For most people, when childhood ends you don’t have a guardian.

  9. Alicia

    The hadith may be more or less correct, however, they are often cited without full context, which could alter the meaning considerably. I believe that if we accept that the Prophet (PBUH) was a prophet of God, then we must always interpret the meanings of the hadith as leaning towards justice, peace, and love.

  10. Sandy

    Not only are they sometimes cited without the full context, but we often don’t even have a full context to cite. And part of the context was the political situation, and interpretations of very fallible human beings throughout centuries. Some may be accurate. But they are often cherry-picked and interpreted to support Patriarchal customs rather than supporting the Quran. They were in the stewardship of man for 200 years before they were written down. I have very little faith in that stewardship.

  11. Alicia

    Your comments have me thinking! I am a fan of Asma Barlas’s work on defending non-patriarchial interpretations of the Quran but now might be ready to re-read some of my old material on philosophy of language. I was at a school where my profs often argued that context was irrelevant to understanding language. This approach strikes me as so wrong (especially having been a ballet teacher). When I think of all that goes into communication it seems to me that there is no way to retrieve the actual meaning as only fragments of context are available, which can severely distort meaning. Moreover, there is a problem of what information one should take as more or less important. As you say, men have set the priorities and then created a system to reinforce those priorities. So, one has to wonder what the theories of the scholars are regarding the ability to infer meaning. On another topic, I like your simple statement that one is a grown up when one doesn’t have a guardian. When scholars justify views such as females are “adults” at 9 (while males are adults at 15) adulthood is being defined as sexual maturity rather than mental or emotional maturity. Something seems wrong with this being the only idea of adulthood (if I am indeed correct).

  12. Clara


    if i may ask a question. as far as i know hadiths are also a source of information on how to pray, fast, etc. i am totally with you saying that hadiths should be treated with more discernment (however, as i understand it, they are widely accepted among muslims). but then if you discard those treating about Aisha’s age as false, how do you know that the rest is okay? how do you make that distinction? also, i think a lot of the quran cannot be understood without the hadiths, so i’ve been told, that’s why you need to accept both to complete the picture. thanks for taking time to answer🙂

  13. Sandy

    First of all-taken together hadith supports her being older, because there are inconsistancies. Prayer has been in continuous practice for centuries. I don’t know one Muslim who learned to pray from hadith. And if anyone can reference a hadith that spells out the specific ritual of prayer I would be very interested to see it.

    I don’t have a problem understanding Quran without hadith. I don’t feel the need for as “complete” a picture as many seem to think necessary. Some lack of clarity is where Islam can get its flexibility and its relevancy for different cultures and different times.

    I don’t totally discard hadith. They can lead to a richer understanding and experience. But I have problems when people start legislating from them. Or supporting medieval practices and slapping the “It’s Islamic” label on it.

    But you are right, most Muslims don’t see things the way I do.

  14. Clara


    i haven’t read all the hadiths but I know there are chapters on ablutions and prayer, and assumed that’s the source of it. But I guess you simply learn those things as you grow up in a muslim family or when you convert, the community teaches you the basics. I was told by muslim friend that different schools of thought say that ablutions and prayer should be performed in a slightly different manner. Hence my assumption that they must derive it from the hadiths. you learn sth new every day!🙂

    as for reading the qur’an without hadiths and need for ‘complete’ picture. as long as you are comfortable in the position you arrived at, I have absolutely no objection🙂 when i read about islam though, i tend to go for the ‘mainstream’ views, and that would be acceptance of bukhari and muslim.
    thanks again!

  15. I have just recently discovered your blog and am very sorry i haven’t earlier. thanks for this post. it angers me to even think about the issue…I mean if you are so keen on behaving like the Prophet PBOH, how come you don’t marry women whom are 15 years your senior like he did. you can’t pick and choose what excuses your sick fantasies and blame Islam.

  16. ali

    What happens here is not just child marriage.. it is the SALE of a VIRGIN. She is actually auctioned and the father takes the cash. This mentality is common ( amongst the lower levels) not only in KSA, but in the GCC, Pakistan and India AND other Arab Countries. An Egyptian HAS offered me a 9 year old girl in the past – at a price. And I DID report him, but nothing happened to him. He probably DID sell her to someone else.
    The Mentality is: Women are Cattle, you sell cattle and make money? You can sell woman and make money too. It is a TRADE. This is the ignorance that is still alive and kicking in this region and “buyers” of these girls will not get into changing this… Think About IT!
    I do not think we should bring in the life of the Prophet PBUH, Bukhari or Islam into this… Any ” Muslim” nation that does not apply the WHOLE Quran as it’s LAW BOOK – cannot be classified as a true muslim nation, but a nation of Hypocrites. So treat it as an act/ practice of ignorance and deviance and not as a bunch of creeps following in the footsteps of the Prophet PBUH! These persons have nothing to do with Sunnah, or Quran or any religion.
    Selling children for Sex is a whole industry worldwide. Philipines, Thailand.. even in the USA.. and it has buyers . Here, as in all things, some crimes are made to look “good” by being covered with “religious teaching – as interpreted and twisted by someone ( who is twisted)”…

  17. Abass

    I have never understood the logic behind 18 being the age of “maturity”? Why not above or below? I understand majority of western countries have 18 as the legal limit age of “consent” for marriage (some have it at less than 18). But is this based on a very strong scientific evidence or it is just an arbitrary number that they settled on it and has now become a “norm” (methinks it is the later)? I have a problem with blindly aping everything western and the belief that the solution must always lie in the way it is done in the west. Also, why is it OK for a 74 year old to marry an 18 year old but not OK for a 19 year old to marry a 15 year old?

    • Sara

      I think you raise a good point Abass and it’s a deep philosophical question. I personally think 18 is a good age to classify someone as ‘adult’ because this is the age at which pre-university education tends to finish; in other words, in 18 years, most people should have had the minimum education and guidance from their family needed to go out into the world, get a job and sustain themselves. Although I know many immature 18 year olds too but that’s an argument to raise the age, not to lower it!

      “…not OK for a 19 year old to marry a 15 year old?”
      Assuming you are over 18, think about the amount you changed between 15 and 19 and you’ll see the answer to that question!

      “why is it OK for a 74 year old to marry an 18 year old..”
      I personally would think this is irresponsible (possibility of having an 18 year old widow with children for example!) but the point is, if you’ve finished your basic education and are deciding what to do with your life, marrying whom you chose is part of it. If you haven’t finished even your basic education you are not prepared enough to make those decisions!

      P.S great blog by the way!

  18. luk

    Extremely interesting blog! It’s not easy for a westerner to listen directly to Arabs. Mostly, we hear only “experts” or fanatics, both with their own hidden agenda.
    A question. I am sure you agree, like people of all religions, that God created human minds and nature. Why ancient testimony should be more reliable that human minds? Why can’t we interpret nature with our own mind? They are all God’s creation. If by reason we conclude that marrying childs is wrong, why should we worry whether ancient scholars or ancient testimony said differently centuries ago? Maybe it was right then, but what do they say about today? Why should God create our beautiful mind if then we cannot use it?
    Tradition is ancient and reputable, but reason is more ancient and more reputable.

  19. Pingback: Ministry of Justice takes offence | Saudiwoman's Weblog

  20. Flame

    “Why ancient testimony should be more reliable that human minds?” – because this would make quran and sunnah not necessary and unreliable, because how they can be perfect if human mind is better, in fact?

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