The latest case of Arab child sex slavery, that of a 12-year-old girl sold to an 80-year-old man for $23,000, has led to renewed criticism of Saudi Arabia’s fundamentalist regime, but a Saudi ministry dismisses the notion that a ban is required, saying that it would be detrimental to society.
Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Teraifi, an official with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs, stresses that banning child marriage would be damaging, as it would result in girls being forced into the hijab at a later age, potentially allowing them to mix with unrelated men in a sinful manner:
“Outlawing the marriage of young girls to elderly men will have a negative effect on Saudi society as it will lead to mixing of the sexes which is impermissible in Islam.”
A series of internationally publicised “marriages” of girls as young as 8 being sold to (frequently elderly) men has seen international pressure mount on the kingdom to do something.
Even within a barbarous medieval kingdom like Saudi Arabia, calls for laws against child marriage are growing. The official warns these domestic calls for restraint are mere mass media froth:
“Much of the public discussion of the issue is based upon a few reports that have appeared in newspapers, which is insufficient reason to start campaigns to restrict such marriages.”
Saudi law is based on medieval Sharia Islamic codes, which set no lower age limit on marriage and allow marital practices considered abhorrent in the developed world.
No less a figure than Mohammed himself is said to have married a 6-year-old, though he graciously waited until she was 9 before consummating the marriage.
The ministry official affirms this, saying men should only have sex with pubescent girls:
“Age has nothing to do with the validity of the marriage contract, but consummation of marriage should be only when the bride reaches the age of puberty.”