Resistance would be fierce because child marriage is defended with the example of Muhammad, the supreme model of conduct for Muslims according to Qur’an 33:21, who consummated his marriage to Aisha when she was nine and he was fifty-four (Sahih Bukhari 7.62.88). Muslims in countries far removed from one another believe this and act accordingly. The practice of child marriage is not persisting because Muslims in Yemen, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and elsewhere are reading American blogs.
“Human Rights Watch urges Yemen to ban child marriage, details plight of country”s child brides,” for the Associated Press, December 8:
CAIRO “” A leading international rights group on Thursday urged authorities in Yemen to set 18 as the minimum age for marriage to improve girls” opportunities for education and protect their human rights.
Human Rights Watch said widespread child marriage in the Arab world’s poorest country jeopardizes Yemeni girls” health and keeps them second-class citizens.
As always, the elephant in the room is Sharia.
A report by the New York-based group said Yemeni government and U.N. data showed that in some rural areas of Yemen, girls as young as eight were married off. Some have told HRW they were subjected to marital rape and domestic abuse. […]
There is a Yemeni tribal saying, according to a 2008 New York Times report: “Give me a girl of 8, and I can give you a guarantee [for a good marriage].”
The issue of Yemen’s child brides received widespread attention four years ago, when an 8-year-old girl boldly went by herself to a courtroom and demanded a judge dissolve her marriage to a man in his 30s. She eventually won a divorce.
That was Nojud Ali. Let us also not forget Arwa Abdu Muhammad Ali. They were lucky. Fawziya Abdullah Yousef, who died in childbirth at 12, was not. Nor was an unnamed 11-year-old hospitalized for genital injuries. Nor was Elham Assi, who died at 13 of bleeding and genital injuries after her husband of four days, enraged at his performance problems, obtained enhancement drugs and raped her repeatedly, even after taking her a clinic that told him to leave her alone for 10 days due to injuries he had already inflicted.
These are only the stories that got out.
A February 2009 law set Yemen’s minimum age for marriage at 17, but it was repealed after some lawmakers called it un-Islamic and sent back to parliament’s constitutional committee for a review. The review has since been stalled by a group of lawmakers contending that enforcing a minimum age would be contrary to Islamic law.
Yemeni activist Tawakkol Karman, who won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for her work in advancing women’s rights, has also highlighted the issue.
In a 2010 opinion piece, Karman wrote that there “is a vast space in our Islamic Law heritage for reaching consensus on adopting the age of 18 as a minimum age for marriage.”
The Muslim Brotherhood, of which she is a member, may be more resistant to the idea of such an undertaking, now that it is operating from a position of increasing strength. In any case, the same obstacles remain: reaching that consensus within a framework that calls itself Sharia will require a large number of clerics to accept a revisionist narrative, and innovation (bida) that flies in the face of centuries of pre-existing texts and clerical consensus.