x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

End the tragedy of child brides

End the tragic series of child-bride deaths An Arab columnist denounces the horror of children becoming brides. Other comment topics: Lebanon's crisis and opinions on the Arab Spring.

The story of Rawan Mohamed, the 8-year-old Yemeni girl who was married off last month to a man in his 40s, must prompt the Arab and Muslim worlds into a serious reassessment of this obsolete tradition, which takes a devastating psychological toll on helpless child brides, Bahraini commentator Fawaz Al Shrouqi wrote in yesterday’s edition of the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

Soon after her marriage, it was rumoured that Rawan had died of internal bleeding on her wedding night. The rumours were later denied.

Whether Rawan really died that day, as rights groups in Yemen claimed, or whether she survived as the Yemeni government later asserted, the fact remains that her marriage to a man nearly five times her age was “a reprehensible crime”, Al Shrouqi wrote. It is a crime in which both the husband and the girl’s family are guilty, he added.

“Rawan’s is not the only story in Yemen about a girl who is forcibly married to a man several times her age, and suffers as a result from severe emotional and physical damage,” the writer said. “In 2010, Ilham Al Ishi died at the age of 13 as a result of the damage she had suffered after marrying an [older] man … after four days of marriage.”

That same year, another Yemeni girl, 12-year-old Fawzia Hammoudi, died during childbirth, as her reproductive organs were not yet fully developed.

A year before that, Nujood Ali, still an 8-year-old at the time, ran away from her husband who forced her into bed every night and filed for divorce at a court in Yemen. She won a landmark case, but the emotional damage was already done, the writer said.

“Child marriage is not an exclusively Yemeni matter. The problem is common in various parts of the Arab and Muslim worlds,” he noted. “In fact, the issue still fuels debates between those who want to push legislation that protects innocent children, and those who still cling to child marriage as a Sharia-permissible right.”

While medical doctors, sociologists and psychologists keep issuing evidence-based warnings about the physical and emotional traumas associated with child marriage, some sheikhs and clerics still consider any form of ban on, say, a 50-year-old man marrying an 8-year-old to be an infringement on a religious right, the author noted.

The problem of child marriage or, more poignantly “death brides”, posits two essential questions, he said in conclusion. First, what to do when religious jurisprudence clashes with clinical evidence? And, second, what do pro-child-marriage clerics make of the “preservation of life” principle, which is a core value in Islam?

So many of these young girls die, but some Sharia scholars prefer to overlook that and cosy up instead to outdated tribal customs.

The crisis in Lebanon reaches a tipping point

The state and its institutions in Lebanon have reached an unprecedented level of disintegration and the current crisis is just the tip of the iceberg, wrote columnist Abdullah Iskandar in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

There is a tendency to put the blame on all of the Lebanese people, who have failed to agree to coexist and govern themselves; it seems as if the country is merely suffering political conflicts over “slices” of power, that will disappear once an agreement over that is reached, the writer said.

However, Lebanon’s current situation has already passed the stage where power sharing is possible, and the continuing failure to form a government is clear evidence.

The president – that is, Christians at large – and the prime minister-designate – that is, Sunnis at large – seek an egalitarian formula of “8+8+8” for Christians, Sunnis and Shiites. But Hizbollah wants to have the constitutional power to disrupt the government internally by grabbing a bigger share in it.

The situation has become so fragile that the country might become a fully failed state, amid fears of a constitutional vacuum if no new government is formed.

This very constitutional vacuum has long been sought by Hizbollah, which is the only party capable of filling it. But Hizbollah is not willing to fill it at this point, because of regional and international calculations involving Iran, the writer concluded.

Emotions are behind attacks on Arab Spring

There are some widely-circulated notions that the Arab Spring has failed, that it has brought mayhem and division and that the Arabs are not ready for and do not deserve democracy, wrote Said Al Haj in an article on the Rai Al Youm news website.

Such verdicts are not new, he said, but the novelty is that some people who promote them now were not enemies of the Arab Spring revolutions in the beginning.

So what happened that led many of the Arab Spring’s backers, who once saw the uprisings as a turning point in history. to slam them as utter mayhem?

The reason is that these people were influenced by emotions rather than by reason; also some are ignorant of the processes of revolutions across history, which shows that a revolution is not fulfilled in a couple of years but rather in dozens of years, backward and forward; the French Revolution is a case in point.

The emotional involvement in the Arab uprisings has formed a rosy picture that made some to expect quick results.

But when the uprisings hit the walls of the deep state, foreign interference and a lack of experience, many people were shocked and eventually lost trust in the revolutions and the people behind them.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk