8 year olds, Dude

April 13, 2009

For the idea of being open minded and tolerant of other cultures, for the sake of convenience, for a lot of reasons, I try not to be too vocal about the way different countries make their laws. I may disagree with many, but I try to be mindful that I’m looking at the way a country is run from the perspective of an American, and I have no concept of what it may be like to live in a country like Saudi Arabia. They have a different climate, a different geography, different educational standards, and they are governed by Sharia law. Countries do things differently for a number of reasons, and not every country can take all of their cues from us and still be able function. I understand all that, and for those reasons, I tend to only speak up about foreign affairs when I see something outrageous like a genocide or something along those lines.

This morning, though, I came across a story that I can’t keep quiet about. Let’s put aside feelings about arranged marriages for the time being. For the record, I’m not a fan. But forget for now, and let’s put aside our feelings about a nearly 40 year age gap between spouses. For the record, I think that’s a bit much. Again, that ignoring that, let’s put aside our feelings about anything and everything else besides the fact that a girl was forced to marry a 47 year old man at the tender age of 8 years old.  That’s 3 more than 5 and 8 years less than still being too young to get married. She’s 8! The courts said that she could apply for divorce once she reaches puberty. Because she hasn’t reached puberty yet. Because she’s 8, and nobody should have any business forcing her to marry. Because she’s 8.

In the article, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh says that a girl aged 10-12 can be married. Personally, I still think he’s wrong because she’s 10, but that aside, that sets a floor down on this issue. The floor is 10. As wrong as it is to go and marry a 10 year old, even the people who think it’s OK seemed to agree that it’s wrong to go 8, but still, this man went for 8. Hell, even the prophet Mohammed waited until his third wife was 9 before he consummated the marriage. It’s just wrong on every level, and there can be no better way to describe the gender divide which exists in that particular part of the world.

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36 Responses to “8 year olds, Dude”

  1. lenny25 said

    uhhh what?!?
    I have so many issues with this, I don’t even know where to start. When I was 8, I still thought I was going to be able to develop my xray vission and the conversations I carried out with my teddy bears were the most exciting things I did all day. An 8 year old does not have the mental capacity for marriage. It doesnt matter how old her partner is, an 8 year old can not grasp the concept of marriage. I’m now 20 and I still dont think I have the capacity to fully understand marriage. Like really?
    She isnt even old enough to drink if shes unhappy in her marriage!! Good Grief!

    • theundefeatedrookiesensation said

      In Saudi Arabia, she couldn’t drink anyway. Not allowed, sadly, unless she’s familiar with the black market. Even if she was 20, she wouldn’t be able to run away into a bottle.

  2. Spirit said

    I need more information. Perhaps this girl was orphaned and the best way to make sure she was provided for was to “marry her off.”

    • Notelrac said

      The information you need is right in the cited article: “The girl’s father, according to the attorney, arranged the marriage in order to settle his debts with the man.”

      This makes perfect sense if you live in a patriarchal society like Saudi Arabia, where children, especially girls, are considered chattel possessions. It only outrages western sensibilities because our culture has different morals and ethics.

    • thebeerphilosopher said

      To a 47-year old man? Do you honestly think an aging bachelor wants to provide for an 8-year old out of benevolence? Wanting to get all the information is all well and good, but no matter the cultural context, you HAVE to suspect an ulterior motive. Like pedophilia.

  3. Notelrac said

    “It’s just wrong on every level, and there can be no better way to describe the gender divide which exists in that particular part of the world.”

    I agree with the second part of your sentence, that this story is a good illustration of how Sharia is different from our culture. But you should rephrase the first part of the sentence to read, “I feel that it is just wrong on every level.” I’m sure there are many people in the Middle East who would disagree with you on the wrongness.

    • thebeerphilosopher said

      No, dammit. Don’t edit a damned thing. This is a blog, not a cover-your-ass piece of academic drivel meant to placate the masses without implicating yourself as a thinking, feeling human being. A 47-year old man marrying an 8-year old girl is wrong. Anyone who thinks otherwise — and pardon my French, but f*ck the cultural divide — is a sick and twisted human being.

      Maybe you’d be so kind, Notelrac, to explain why cross-cultural outrage needs to be qualified. Isn’t it made obvious by the simple fact that the author is writing this piece in this venue that he’s stating his opinion?

      Furthermore, if we were all supposed to sit quietly while Saudis raped little girls, or while whites in South Africa maimed their black countrymen, or while English colonials enslaved native Indians in their own country, or while the Nazis slaughtered and buried Jews in mass graves, if we were to chalk all of these up to simple cultural differences and be done with them, how on earth would we ever sleep at night?

      • Sue Doughnym said

        Hmmm… aren’t you the same blogger who wrote, “But at the moment at which you realize that the idea is only important because of the number of people who believe in it, those crowds start looking like collections of mannequins.” I guess that you’re only willing to consider questioning “safe” ideas that fit in with your personal norms.

        In addition to pointing out that you’re talking the talk yet not walking the walk, I’ll invoke Godwin’s Law.

      • lenny25 said

        Cheers to that, philosopher.

    • theundefeatedrookiesensation said

      But I don’t care about how the people who follow Sharia law feel about it, because I know that it’s wrong. It’s state-sanctioned pedophilia. You don’t have to come from another culture to understand that it is, in fact, wrong. It doesn’t even make sense from a biological standpoint. The girl hasn’t reached puberty yet. Even if you accept the “if there’s grass on the field…” philosophy, there’s no grass on this field. There are only seeds, seeds given to a man 39 years her senior by her father to pay off gambling debts. Wherever you come from and whatever your culture says, it is wrong, and if you think that it’s not, then you are wrong. Period. This is a child we’re talking about here, and she’s been given to a pervert (what other type of man would have any interest in marrying an 8 year old girl) to pay off a debt. Where you come from doesn’t mean anything; some things are just not right.

      • modernpiracy said

        “gambling debts”

        Gambling is illegal according to Saudi Arabia’s Shaira law. If, in fact, it was gambling debts than the whole case is illegal anyways. Maybe rather than dicussing our opinions or reactions, we could look at the facts to try and help this child out.

      • theundefeatedrookiesensation said

        Fair point. I made an accidental leap. Strike “gambling” from the record!

  4. Palm Tree said

    It was my understanding that this was a blog for educational purposes. This thread and its ensuing comments seem to me very unprofessional.

    • thebeerphilosopher said

      Unprofessional in what sense? In the sense that it brings up an issue outside of your comfort zone? That it discusses material that is unfit for the blogosphere? That it violates academia by stating an opinion based in impulse rather than reason?

      I’m not trying to be pejorative here, I’m honestly curious as to what it is that’s so unprofessional about this blog entry.

    • Notelrac said

      The blog is moderated, in that comments must be approved by the blog owners before they show up to the rest of us. So there is a check on unprofessional comments.

      And in a rare and probably fleeting display of solidarity with thebeerphilosopher :-), I’ll likewise admit to a curiosity as to why you are using the word “unprofessional”.

    • theundefeatedrookiesensation said

      Educational, not professional. I’m learning a lot from all this, to be honest, so I think this post and this thread is doing great.

      • Palm Tree said

        I will repost my reply since it appears you didn’t see it.

        There are multiple examples:

        here is one:

        [quote]

        No, dammit. Don’t edit a damned thing. This is a blog, not a cover-your-ass piece of academic drivel meant to placate the masses without implicating yourself as a thinking, feeling human being. A 47-year old man marrying an 8-year old girl is wrong. Anyone who thinks otherwise — and pardon my French, but f*ck the cultural divide — is a sick and twisted human being. [/quote]

        I agree with you, i think it is wrong to marry a 8 year old girl … however, you crude and uneducated way of stating things sounds like a conversation in a bar room. Your pretended outrage rings hollow when all i am getting from you is rage and platitudes.

        I think that you “F” everyone who disagrees with me attitude is not one that is appropriate for this space.

  5. thebeerphilosopher said

    Sue:

    “Hmmm… aren’t you the same blogger who wrote, “But at the moment at which you realize that the idea is only important because of the number of people who believe in it, those crowds start looking like collections of mannequins.” I guess that you’re only willing to consider questioning “safe” ideas that fit in with your personal norms.”

    Yes, my personal norms include protecting innocent young girls from being forcibly raped. Of course they do. And if you recall, my post called for the debating of ideas that run contrary to your own. Just because they’re mannequins doesn’t mean those mannequins don’t need to be knocked over. I have no idea what you’re talking about here.

    Furthermore, I challenge you to come up with an “unsafe” idea for me to debate. But don’t clog this thread with it: move it to the comments section of that post.

    As for the Hitler reference, I’ll concede with the stipulation that just because I used Hitler as a reference does not invalidate the claim as a whole. Social injustices must draw outrage if they are to be stopped or prevented in the future. I just named a handful of instances where international outrage sparked social change. Next time I’ll find a more acceptable example than the most glaring one in the history of mankind. You’d like that, wouldn’t you? To ignore Hitler because he’s just sooooo taboo?

  6. Palm Tree said

    There are multiple examples:

    here is one:

    [quote]

    No, dammit. Don’t edit a damned thing. This is a blog, not a cover-your-ass piece of academic drivel meant to placate the masses without implicating yourself as a thinking, feeling human being. A 47-year old man marrying an 8-year old girl is wrong. Anyone who thinks otherwise — and pardon my French, but f*ck the cultural divide — is a sick and twisted human being. [/quote]

    I agree with you, i think it is wrong to marry a 8 year old girl … however, you crude and uneducated way of stating things sounds like a conversation in a bar room. Your pretended outrage rings hollow when all i am getting from you is rage and platitudes.

    • thebeerphilosopher said

      First of all, I don’t believe I sound uneducated at all. An uneducated response, I think, would be something like “Dude… gross! Teh old dood n teh litlle grrl = sik! LOL” I made a point, and it’s a point that you agree with. So even if it is uneducated, that doesn’t mean it’s worthless. As for crudity, if you choose to read this blog, you’ll have to grow a thicker skin. This is not Readers Digest.

      And my outrage is anything but pretend. Not only am I outraged at the situation, but also at those who would tell people to temper their feelings toward the situation so as not to offend the very people perpetrating this heinous crime. Those advocates of temperance in this situation are to me as bad as the Saudi rapist, as bad as the judge who allowed him to be a state-sanctioned rapist, as bad as the father who offered up his daughter as payment for his own sins, because they don’t have the balls to stand up and say, “This is wrong, and someone ought to do something about it.”

      And if I get a little hot under the collar about it, so sue me. But if you can’t stand the heat…

  7. anonymous said

    Could someone explain to me what you all think is so “wrong” about this situation?

    It seems like posters are assuming that a marriage includes sex and that what you disapprove of is that an older man is having sex with an 8 year old. I doubt that’s happening in this situation.

    People in the American culture get married for many different reasons: to help someone get US citizenship, to advance their social status/wealth, to placate their families, etc. What is the difference between that and marrying to settle a debt that makes the latter so terrible?

    • thebeerphilosopher said

      Lots of stuff. First, I for one don’t discredit the idea that marriage happens for a million different reasons in this country. But the fact that it happens doesn’t make it right. If the original author of this post had said that a man in Peoria had married off his 18-year old daughter to a 47-year old man to settle gambling debts, I’d be similarly outraged, and for two reasons: First, in this instance you MUST suspect pedophilia as a motive on the part of the newlywed husband, and second, CHILDREN ARE NOT CURRENCY. They are human beings, and deserve to be treated as such, with the right to marry whom they see fit within the scope of the law.

      • anonymous said

        It seems a bit odd to say that something so central to another culture is wrong just because people from Western society think that it is wrong.

        What do you think this father would say about the fact that Massachusetts allows same sex marriage? How would you feel if he simply said “homosexual marriage is JUST WRONG” and didn’t attempt to think about the reasons why Mass. allows it.

        What about women in this country that wear “revealing” clothes? What if the father said “women wearing shorts is JUST WRONG”? Isn’t that the same as what you’re doing? Isn’t it a bit closed minded?

      • thebeerphilosopher said

        The difference here is homosexuality and revealing clothing aren’t violations of basic human rights.

      • Notelrac said

        People in Saudi Arabia (and China, for that matter) define “human rights” quite differently than liberal college sophomores. The point that anonymous and I are trying to make is that you are assuming that your Nomos (your socially constructed view of factual reality) is a Phusis (a universal law).

      • thebeerphilosopher said

        Again, I’m a conservative. But that’s neither here nor there. I understand that people in other countries have different views on human rights. But where we differ is in your assertion that it is possible for human rights to be defined differently in a cultural context. While that may be true on some level, I have to believe that there is a set of rights that are universal to everyone, regardless of cultural context. I cannot imagine a set of universal rights that did not include a person’s right to be valued as more than a commodity to be traded to settle debts.

      • thresholdlurker said

        I’m not sure that we need to sit back and blithely accept the values of another country. If we do not believe in our own values enough to stand for them in the face of other beliefs, are we worthy to hold them? I would argue that these things must be debated, the outrage must be heard. That’s how our values, as Americans, work. Everyone gets a voice, including Americans.

      • Notelrac said

        “I have to believe that there is a set of rights that are universal to everyone, regardless of cultural context.”

        Some people believe homosexuality is immoral. Some people have been touched by the Noodly Appendage of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Some people believe there are universal rights.

        “I cannot imagine a set of universal rights that did not include a person’s right to be valued as more than a commodity to be traded to settle debts.”

        Me neither. In fact, I’m conservative enough that I can’t imagine a set of rights that is universal.

  8. anonymous said

    Could a blogger please attempt to reconcile this entry and its supposed wrong-ness with the fact that Lolita by Nabokov (a work on a similar topic) is considered a classic novel in many circles?

    • thebeerphilosopher said

      Lolita is an exploration of basal human desire at its extreme. A reader understands that what the main character wants is wrong, which is why it is appealing. Kubrick, who if I’m not mistaken directed the movie version of the book, likes dealing with this topic. Consider “A Clockwork Orange,” and how at the end of the movie (and book) we end up rooting for the guy who raped and murdered his way through life at the beginning of the movie. We understand that the desires of these characters are perverse, and are asked to suspend this judgment momentarily in order to follow the story. That doesn’t mean that the action is justified, but we allow artists to explore it as we allow them to explore all elements of the human condition, no matter how perverse. In that respect, Lolita is a classic. As a moral statement, however, it is abhorrent.

    • Notelrac said

      From wikipedia: “Nabokov’s Lolita is far from an endorsement of pedophilia, since it dramatizes the tragic consequences of Humbert’s obsession with the young girl. Several times, Humbert begs the reader to understand that he is not proud of his union with Lolita, but is filled with remorse. At one point, he is listening to the sounds of children playing outdoors, and is stricken with guilt at the realization that he robbed Lolita of her childhood.”

  9. bostongrl said

    I just can’t believe that they would marry off a child that young. I am just trying to imagine my father doing that to me. That is like marrying my father. I can understand that each country and religion has their own beliefs on certain topics, like marriage, but personally it makes me sick. I guess it’s all about what is accepted and known. I just cant try to think like that. Come on, years old?

  10. bostongrl said

    that last sentence is supposed to say “Come on, 8 years old?”

  11. guswinn said

    I think that there is a clash between your moral values and the values of other cultures. I would have to agree with you on this one, which is what most people (I really hope) would concur with in the United States.

    On a controversial note, can you blame these cultures for having marriages of such age differences? This is the way they were brought up. This is the way they were conditioned. They don’t think that there is anything wrong with this.

    Think if you were brought up the same way they were. Would you think about this in the same light?

    Once again, a clash of values.

  12. guswinn said

    I love the title of this entry, by the way.

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