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Something New? Saudi Cleric Condones Child Brides

A ceremonial wedding between a girl and a frog sounds like child's play compared to a real wedding between a girl and a middle-aged man. Yet the practice continues to cross our screens and affect real lives around the world. And it's not stopping anytime soon — at least not in Saudi Arabia.

Top Saudi cleric, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, said it is not fair to tell a 10- or 12-year-old girl that she can't marry. This comes after a Saudi judge refused to annul a marriage between an 8-year-old girl and a 58-year-old man.

The girl's mother petitioned for the annulment, saying the marriage was arranged by the girl's father to settle a debt. The judge's only consolation? He required the newlywed husband to sign a pledge promising to abstain from sex until the girl reached puberty, bringing new meaning to abstinence pledge.

Though Saudi law may intend to protect children, it's difficult to separate the secular from the sacred in a country so steeped in Islam — a religion that imposes no age limits on marriage. A Saudi Arabia researcher for Human Rights Watch said, "It is still the religious establishment that holds sway in the courts, and in many realms beyond."


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