About marriage of underage girls [Archives:2008/1213/Opinion]

December 4 2008

By: Abdurrahman Anees
The 14 October Weekly republished an article by the researcher Islam Buhairi, which was previously published in several Arab newspapers. The article was a condensed summary of a good research that eventually helped the researcher and readership conclude that historical events contained in famous books confirm that Mother of Believers Aisha Bint Abi Bakr Al-Seddiq got married to Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon Him) at age 18 not six.

The researcher's article contained numerous striking facts by criticizing the narrative telling that Prophet Mohammed got married to Aisha at age six. According to the researcher, the narrative is inauthentic and baseless. He adds that chronological events contained in famous books confirmed that Aisha was at age 4 when prophecy was first revealed in Mecca, which implies that she was born 4 years before prophecy was revealed.

While contemplating on the Islamic history, I turned to realize that there are pressing demands by civil society organizations in Yemen to amend the Yemeni Personal Status Law to determine the minimum marriage age. Unlike other similar laws worldwide, the Yemeni Personal Status Law allows fathers to marry their daughters at anytime even at the infancy stage.

The Yemeni law, which was approved in 1992, banned marriage of girls under age 15 and boys under age 18, however, the law was amended when the Islah Party (of Islamic brotherhood orientation) was involved in power following the notorious civil war in 1994.

Following its involvement in the coalition government, the Islah Party introduced a package of legal amendments under the cover of “coding the Islamic Sharia”. This package included amending the Personal Status Law, thereby annulling the legally determined minimum age for girls' marriage. Consequently, parents are allowed, under the amended law, to marry their daughters even at the age of one day.

Legal amendments responsible for child marriage

The subsequent crimes committed against innocent childhood, which included the marriage of many girls at age 8 by those, who claim that their age is three times older than what seems, are viewed as a natural product related with amending the Personal Status Law by the Islah Party's parliamentary bloc after the 1994 Civil War.

A Parliament member from the Islah Party confirmed recently that his colleagues in Parliament refuse to determine a minimum marriage age under the pretext that the procedure is a conspiracy against Yemen and the moral values in the country. The kind readership may understand how the conspiracy theory controlled minds of those legislators.

Over the past time period, our nation witnessed numerous tragedies related with the coercive marriage of underage girls while many stories about child marriage were published by the various media outlets. Those stories include marriage of an 8-year-old girl to a 30-year-old man, in addition to other child girls aged between 6 and 12 years, who were forced by their parents to marry men, who are three times older than them.

Those, who strongly adhere to the current Personal Status Law, no longer have a testimony in proof of what they claim after the story of Aisha's marriage to Prophet Mohammed at age six was proved inauthentic and baseless. Even if we suppose that the story was authentic and correct, it should be part of Prophet Mohammed's privacy, who was allowed by the Islamic Sharea to have more four wives at the same time while Muslims are not allowed to have more than this number.

Marriage of underage girls still is in existence with its tragedy continuing, particularly as the Yemeni Personal Status Law allows marriage of little girls, according to amendments introduced by Islah Parliament members. In order to put a stop to these crimes, we should first annul such legal amendments and then design and enact the law once again to determine the minimum age for girl's marriage.

Source: 14October.com