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12 April, 2005

Shotgunning weddings

Albeit slowly, women's rights are making incremental progress in Saudi Arabia. The grand mufti has "banned" the practice of forcing women to marry against their will, calling for violators - usually fathers - to be jailed.

"The top Muslim cleric said anyone who does not give up this pre-Islamic practice "should be punished by imprisonment and should not be released until he drops his demand, which contravenes the provisions of sharia," or Islamic law.

"Violators should be kept behind bars until they commit to "refrain from aggressing the woman, her legal tutor and the man she marries, and until the chief of their tribe or another influential member of the tribe guarantees that they will comply with this and refrain from aggression," Sheikh added."

What is significant is not the "banning" of something that is already illegal in even the most conservative interpretations of Islamic law. The significant thing is the fact that such a senior religious figure is so openly and decisively denouncing the practice and its perpetrators.

It won't end forced marriage - because through emotional and financial blackmail, or the threat of exile, women will still be coerced into unwanted unions . But it is a very important step in recognising a problem faced by thousands of young women, in Saudi and elsewhere.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Secretdubai,

Well done for highligting another important issue faced by most muslim societies. But I am afraid the proposed law will ever come into effect. Tribal cusoms & traditions take precedence over the religion in not just arab countries but in most muslim countries also.

High rate of divorce is not only a problem in saudi arabia but in most gulf countries. No matter how many laws are passed & enforced, nothing will change as long as the mentality of people remains same. We people are very clever in finding loopholes.

Now the important question is, how will this mentality change? Is passing laws enough? Perhaps you can give us some tips because I believe most western countries have also gone through the same phase at some points in their history.

13 April, 2005 08:12  
Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

Passing laws is never enough. In order for the laws to be effective, they should be enforced (see the integration process in the United States). Unless women have a legal protection system, unless there's a good grievance procedure system, nothing's going to get accomplished.

13 April, 2005 19:13  

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