Thursday, January 15, 2009

Saudi Arabia's tragic human rights

Of course, when a society treats half its population like chattels at best (liabilities at worse), it stunts the full development and realisation of the whole's potential.

That is not - yet - enough of a problem in Saudia Arabia.

The headline (here) is that the 'most senior' Saudi cleric said "A female who is 10 or 12 is marriageable and those who think she's too young are wrong and are being unfair to her."

In what sense is he using the word unfair? Unfair to the perceived honour of the girl's father and family? It can only have meaning in a society where the dominant culture views a girl as no more than a burdensome responsibility.

The context beyond the headlines relates to the Saudi government's Human Rights Commission, which condemned marriages of girls as an inhuman violation [of them and their rights].

Some comfort could be taken from the fact that such a body exists. Yet it's a long haul if both government and courts lag far behind.

A Saudi court recently dismissed a divorce petition emanating from a girl's mother, saying that only the girl could file - once she reached puberty. Meaning: today's courts are only conducting trivial argy bargy around the fringes of the issue.

As much as anything else, two fundaments should apply to anyone who considers that children, and childhood, should be respected as tantamount to sacred.

First, if there were such a concept as 'informed consent' in Saudi Arabia, a child clearly couldn't give such consent until reaching a deemed level of maturity - and that age being 16 in most countries could be argued to be not protective enough, in this context. Second, the reproductive cycle is impact enough on any woman's body, but going through it before the body is fully matured is potentially quite dangerous.

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