In brief: child brides

(Trigger warning.)

Photo caption: “Whenever I saw him, I hid. I hated to see him,” Tahani (in pink) recalls of the early days of her marriage to Majed, when she was 6 and he was 25. The young wife posed for this portrait with former classmate Ghada, also a child bride, outside their mountain home in Hajjah.

National Geographic have compiled a series of photos about child brides. I was discussing with a colleague the other day the problem of western feminism trying to colonise the Middle East and women in that region. We western feminists often have a very set view of what is acceptable and unacceptable, what is oppressive and problematic, and what needs to change.  But those views are generally based on western experiences which are embedded in western cultural and societal norms. In short: it is very likely that these norms do not apply to non-western women. And nor should they. The most glaring example of such colonisation is the on-going discussion of the wearing of the Islamic veil. We in the west tend to disagree with the veil because we see it as a symbol of the oppression of women and evidence of their mistreatment in Islam. If we’re France we ban Muslim women from wearing the veil. That’s colonisation.

So when it comes to the discussion of child brides in non-western cultures, it’s fundamental to remove our western lens and to consider the practice within non-western culture. (Maybe it’s the case that we shouldn’t be having this discussion at all?) But that’s easier said than done, even on an abstract level. And when you see pictures such as those on the link above, it becomes harder still.

Photo caption: Kandahar policewoman Malalai Kakar arrests a man who repeatedly stabbed his wife, 15, for disobeying him. “Nothing,” Kakar said, when asked what would happen to the husband. “Men are kings here.” Kakar was later killed by the Taliban.

This is not a quandary that I can solve here and now.

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