Saudi Arabia has a serious child-marriage problem.
It’s emblematic of the nation’s struggle between modernity and traditional Islam. But the lives of thousands of little girls are being destroyed as the Saudi government ponderously debates a solution.
Child marriage has been acceptable, even encouraged, in many Islamic states since the religion was born. After all, among the prophet Muhammad’s dozen wives was Aisha, who is believed to have been 6 or 7 years old when the two were married. But in Saudi Arabia, at least, the practice slammed headlong into modern values last spring, when a Saudi court refused to nullify the marriage of an 8-year-old girl from Unaiza to a man in his late 50s….
In 2006, for example, a judge sentenced a young woman to 200 lashes and several months in prison for being alone in a car with a man she was not related to, where they were attacked and she was raped. Opprobrium from around the world rained down on Riyadh. President George W. Bush asked: “What happens if this happens to my daughter? I’d be angry at a state that does not support the victim.” King Abdullah commuted the sentence.