(CNN) — A Saudi judge recently refused to annul a marriage between an 8-year-old girl and a 47-year-old man — a union apparently arranged by the girl’s father to settle his debts — a lawyer in the case told CNN.
The judge said that the girl may sue for divorce herself when she reaches puberty. The husband has been asked to refrain from sexual relations with her until puberty.
It is incorrect to say that it’s not permitted to marry off girls who are 15 and younger,” Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, the kingdom’s grand mufti, said in remarks quoted Wednesday in the regional Al-Hayat newspaper. “A girl aged 10 or 12 can be married. Those who think she’s too young are wrong and they are being unfair to her.
Some Facts About Child Marriage
Child marriage is a violation of human rights whether it happens to a girl or a boy, but it represents perhaps the most prevalent form of sexual abuse and exploitation of girls. The harmful consequences include separation from family and friends, lack of freedom to interact with peers and participate in community activities, and decreased opportunities for education. Child marriage can also result in bonded labor or enslavement, commercial sexual exploitation and violence against the victims. Because they cannot abstain from sex or insist on condom use, child brides are often exposed to such serious health risks as premature pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and, increasingly, HIV/AIDS. – UNICEF
Facts and Figures
- More than 100 million girls in the developing world will be married during the next 10 years.
- Although the definition of child marriage includes boys, most children married under the age of 18 years are girls.
- An estimated 14 million adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 give birth each year. Girls is this age group are twice as likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth as women in their twenties
- While the practice has decreased globally over the last 30 years, it remains common in rural areas and among the poorest of the poor.
- In Southern Asia, 48%—nearly 10 million—of girls are married before the age of 18.
- In Africa, 42% of girls were married before turning 18.
- In Latin America and the Caribbean, 29% of girls are married by age 18.
Child brides are more likely than unmarried girls to die younger, suffer from health problems, live in poverty and remain illiterate. Child marriage is both a response to poverty and a harmful practice that perpetuates poverty. Despite devastating consequences for girls and their communities early marriage persists because of economic and social pressures and tradition.
Child Marriage is a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that free and full consent by both partners is required for marriage. A child is not sufficiently mature to give such consent. Saudi Arabia is a signatory of both the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Child Marriage violates both.
The Saudi Arabian government has been known to reverse such rulings when international pressure is brought to bear. Information about how you can take action can be found at: http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/341/take-action.html