Saudi Cleric Rules for Child Marriage

Sheik Saleh al-Fawzan, one of Saudi Arabia’s most influential clerics, has backed a religious ruling that allows fathers to arrange marriages for their daughters “even if they are in the cradle.” But he drew the line when it came to sex, writing in his fatwa that husbands cannot have intercourse with their child spouses “unless they are capable of being placed beneath and bearing the weight of men.” Al-Fawzan’s ruling—which comes on the heels of the Justice Ministry’s legislative attempt to regulate marriages between prepubescent girls and men—has spurred a confrontation between the Saudi government and the country’s powerful conservative clergy. According to Saudi media, the Justice Ministry would fight to set a minimum age for marriage in the male-dominated, Islamic kingdom—but it’s not clear how much power al-Fawzan’s fatwa would have in the case.