While Islamic apologists in the West call me an “Islamophobe” for pointing out that Muhammad consummated his marriage to Aisha when she was nine years old — according to Islamic texts that Muslims consider reliable — Muslim leaders in Niger know full well that the texts say that, and are acting upon it, and resisting reform efforts as un-Islamic.
“Niger’s traditional chiefs condemn child marriage,” by Abdoulaye Massalatchi for Reuters, with thanks to Laura:
NIAMEY (Reuters) – Niger’s influential traditional chiefs have urged the government to draw up legislation which would stop girls being married off as young children, breaking ranks with Islamic groups in the mostly Muslim nation.
Family matters are decided according to strict Islamic laws in the impoverished West African country and girls, sometimes under the age of 10, are commonly married off by families seeking greater wealth and social status.
After marriage, girls are expected to have children quickly — sometimes ending up with as many as 20 — further boosting the influence of their family in the local community, but often causing medical problems….
In a break with religious custom, the traditional chiefs — influential leaders chosen by powerful village families to deal with community disputes — urged the government to outlaw underage marriage….
They also called on the government to help them educate rural populations about reproductive health. Muslim leaders have in the past fought against such campaigns, including those encouraging people to use condoms in the fight against HIV/AIDS….
Some 95 percent of its nearly 13 million people are Muslims and Islamic law and tradition, interpreted by Muslim scholars and judges known as Ulemas, govern family life.
Muslim traditionalists staged a protest in December against plans to ratify Africa’s Maputo Protocol on women’s rights, agreed in 2003 by African heads of state and aiming to enshrine women’s equality in marriage and public life.
It also bans or discourages polygamy, child marriage, and other customs common in conservative and largely rural Niger.
Parliament voted down ratification of the Protocol last June but the government has since revived efforts to push it through, seeking to mollify hard-core traditionalists by saying the text was aimed not at them, but at those who mistreated women because they had not followed their God.