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