“The thing that prevents us from doing something wrong is either a fatwa cleric, or State law.” This was one of the comments written after publishing the poll asking, “Who is responsible for the phenomenon of child marriage?” on our platform social media networks. The options were as follows:
Community and accepting this act.
Laws of the country that allows this.
Ignorance and lack of awareness.
Before I delve into in this article, let me first explore the history of child marriage. Child marriage is marrying a minor; a children below the age of puberty, under 18 years of age. Usually this kind of practice is enforced on girls, it is rare or one can say even non-existent a girl marry an under aged boy; most likely this is due to the significance of a girls virginity.
The most important point I want to convey through my article is that underage marriages is customary and common throughout human history, in the sense that it is not only common In the Middle East and Africa as it is portrayed in the Western media. In fact actress Ellen Terry born in 1747 married artist George Watts before reaching her 18th birthday, she was sixteen years old at the time.
Examples don’t just stop at Allen Terry, even the French Queen Marie Antoinette of France, who was born in 1755 married King Louis XVI at the age of fourteen years old.
There are many other examples, but going back to the heart of the matter, “Who is responsible for the spread of such a phenomenon?” Many attributed the spread of such a phenomena to poverty, which is in turn is a reason for ignorance and lack of awareness, but the issue has surpassed all this; because there are some well-off families capable financially and not in dire need of the bride’s dowry (who is a the child) and go through with it anyway, adding to the heinous against humanity.
In my opinion, the first reason for allowing the spread of such a terrible phenomenon is its wide spread in the community, the law is above all. In Yemen, more than half of the country’s girls were married before puberty, to the point that some are wed at the tender age of 8 years old.
When the Yemeni government attempted to raise the age of marriage to 15 or 18 years as a minimum, their claims were met with rejection; arguing that any law sets the minimum marriage is opposing Islamic law. It is true that the Quran does not specify a particular age for a valid marriage, but there is a verse in the Qur’an that conveys that marriage is not valid unless adulthood is reached “even if you have reached the adulthood for marriage) Nisa, verse 6.
And yet there is a class of people who have difficulty in understanding and perception; and this is due several things, including the normalization of customs and traditions that limit progress and growth in Arab societies, and to reduce the aggravation of all this, there should be a law to tame and control things that are difficult to control, especially if it was in details of varying convictions of individuals.
Translated by Mira Khatib from Arabic article written by Eshraq Al Rawqi