Cleric reported to have married 12-year-old girl

A Saudi cleric has married a 12-year-old girl just a few days after a retired Saudi civil servant aged 55 years was reported to have wedded a girl of the same age and triggered a wave of criticism inside the Gulf Kingdom.

The unidentified Maazoun (Muslim cleric) married the 12-year-old girl in the southwestern province of Najran close to the Yemeni border after obtaining her father’s approval, the Saudi online Anabaukum paper reported on Friday.

The paper said the man married the girl although she was not aware of the marriage as she told him later that she did not know why she lives with him.

Her father advised the bridegroom not to sleep with his daughter until a year after their marriage and this decision angered the Maazoun’s mother, the paper said.

“I did not sleep with her in the first two months of our marriage…we only sat together and talked about Adam and Eve and other topics,” he told the paper.

“We had lived like a brother and sister but my mother became angry…she told me that I have to sleep with her because her age does not mean she is a child…I had to listen to her and have now started to sleep with my wife.”

The paper quoted the Maazoun as saying he first did not know how to deal with his wife on the grounds she is too young.

“When she first moved into my house, she kept asking me why she is here and why her family sent her to my house,” he said.

The paper did not mention the age of the Maazoun, whose marriage followed reports last week that a 55-year-old retired Saudi wedded a 12-year-old girl, sparking angry reactions from the local human rights group and the media.

The man married the girl, a student at a Quran memorisation centre in Jazan near the Yemeni border, despite strong objections from her grandfather.

Alwatan Arabic language daily said the girl reportedly told the local Muslim cleric she agrees to marry the man, a retired government employee.

“These acts should be stopped,” said the Arabic language daily Shams, just a few days after Alwatan, described the marriage as “a new tragedy.”

The wedding took place amid increasing calls by Saudi officials and Muslim scholars to curb child marriages in the conservative Muslim nation.

Saudi Arabia’s Shura (appointed parliament) debated the phenomenon last week and said it was considering enacting laws to stop such marriages.

Saudi Justice Minister Mohammed Al Issa said last month the Gulf Kingdom, one of the most conservative Muslim nations, is planning to enact a law to regulate the marriage of teenage girls following a surge in such weddings and growing criticism by human rights groups and other international agencies.

He said the new regulations are needed to put an end to what he described as widespread controversy and confusion about such marriages.

"The Ministry is studying a draft law to regulate the marriage of teenage girls," he said, without giving details of the law and the date of its enforcement.

"The marriage of teenage and underage girls in the country is not a phenomenon yet as some claim... those who say this are wrong. We are considering regulations in line with the Islamic Shariah to govern this kind of marriage."

Saudi newspapers quoted a statement by the Saudi Human Rights Authority (HRA) as saying last week that marriage violates the girl’s rights.

“We have set up a committee to study this case and the circumstances involved…the marriage constitutes a violation of the rights of this child, who at this age needs to be cared by her family, pursue her education and enjoy her childhood,” HRA said in a statement.

“We call upon all members of the community to rally against the marriage of children and teenagers. Media institutions should also play a bigger role in defending children and their rights.”

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