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According to the State Department, women, girls and boys are trafficked within the region for commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes through forced marriages, in which their new “husbands” force them into “prostitution and involuntary servitude as beggars or laborers to pay debts, provide income, or support drug addiction of their families.”
As horrid as that prospect is, it’s equally disturbing that these temporary brides are little more than children themselves, with most of the girls auctioned off under 16 years of age.
The demand for young girls, according to Aiman Abu Akeel, chair of the Maat Foundation for Peace and Development, stems from the fact that the majority of men who visit Egypt looking for visitor marriages tend to be Saudis looking for women much younger than them.
That task, however, is complicated by the fact that Egyptian law forbids foreigners from marrying Egyptian girls if there is an age difference of 10 years or more.
So, to skirt around that barrier, parents and marriage brokers often forge birth certificates to make the girls appear older and the men younger, a task harder than it may seem given that girls as young as seven have been bought by Saudi nationals for temporary marriage.
Of course, the Saudi predilection for marrying young woman is well known, an age preference noted by one of Saudi Arabia’s most influential clerics, Sheik Saleh al-Fawzan, who issued a fatwa in January allowing fathers to arrange marriages for their daughters “even if they are in the cradle.”
Yet, al-Fawzan was quick to add that is wasn’t “permissible for their husbands to have sex with them unless they are capable of being placed beneath and bearing the weight of the men,” citing as an example the prophet Mohammad’s wife Aisha, whom he wed at the age of six, but didn’t have sex with until she was nine.
Unfortunately, the Saudi zeal for tossing temporary wives and acquiring illegitimate children is not relegated to the narrow confines of Egypt, where in 2010, nearly 900 children were born to Egyptian women and Saudi fathers.
Rather, Saudi sexual wanderlust has a global reach, with tens of thousands of abandoned wives and children in over 26 countries, with almost 5,000 wives and as many children having been deserted by their tourist husbands in Morocco alone.
As Najeeb Al-Zamil, founder of the Awasser, Back to the Roots Foundation, an NGO that helps Saudi children abroad, said, “Many children live in miserable conditions and turn to drugs and illegal activities, deprived as they are of their true identity.”
Yet, for Saudi and other Arab men, that seems a price they are more than willing to pay in order to receive the religious and legal approval to enjoy the sexual pleasures of a young “wife” during their holiday vacation before abandoning her and any offspring in familial and societal disgrace.
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