Girls have no say and the state does not treat this as pedophilia ó sex between an adult man and pre-pubescent girl is only pedophilia if they aren't married. Why does marriage make a difference unless it's because the girl becomes the property of the husband instead of the father?
In many Western and Muslim countries what happened to Hadjo would be called paedophilia and the male attacker would be arrested and imprisoned. In Niger that word is only applied to men who have sex with girls outside of marriage, said Idrissa Djibrilla, head of the Niger branch of Defence for Children International (DCI), a non-governmental organisation (NGO).
"Here we only talk about paedophilia when sex happens outside marriage," Djibrilla said. "If we look at it from the biological, physiological point of view, it's clear that at nine, 10, 11 or 12 years old a girl simply is not ready for sex and child bearing. That's the reality, but it is hard to make our communities understand."
The effects can be long-lasting and extend beyond physical health, human rights workers and psychologists who have studied child brides say. Forced sexual intercourse, denial of freedom and domestic violence are "frequently" found in child marriages, the long-term effects of which are poorly understood, according to a confidential NGO study shown to IRIN. Eventually, the girls are likely to be abandoned when their polygamous husbands take another young bride. In Niger, women have little or no rights after a divorce.
Source: All Africa
Fortunately not every Muslim nation is this bad, but that's in part because Shariah is not a single set of laws. Not only are there different legal schools in Islam, but different countries incorporate different local traditions. This is a major problem with Rowan Williams' suggestion that Britain introduce Shariah into British courts. Which Shariah? From which country? Privileging any one form of Shariah over all others would be an illegitimate move by the British government.
Why shouldn't Britian introduce the tradition of child brides? Not every Muslim country follows this tradition, but it's as secure as a legitimate religious tradition as anything else in Islam:
In reality, activists say 13 is a common age for marriage, and some girls are married off as young as nine or 10. They will be forced to have sex even before their first period.
Negotiations over the Family Code (Code de la Personne et de la Famille) - a piece of domestic legislation which would have defined the legal relationship between husbands and wives and children and parents, and included a legal minimum age for marriage and sexual intercourse - collapsed in 2006.
According to Alice Kang, a University of Wisconsin researcher who studied the process, the Family Code was "vilified and abandoned" after mainstream Islamist associations lobbied against it. ...
Diadiť Boureima, deputy representative of UNFPA in Niger, said the government is "a bit reticent" about tackling early marriage "because of the religious reaction" and said if things are going to change "the 'marabout' (religious leaders) will have to be involved."
"If there was a law against paedophilia it would be applied here," said Boureima. "But, instead, Islam has legalised it by saying the Prophet had a nine-year-old wife, even though that marriage was not consummated."[emphasis added]
Muslims believe that Muhammad lived an exemplary life and his actions are a model for how Muslims should behave today. That's why his teachings and behavior were recorded in the Hadith, which is nearly as authoritative as the Qur'an. Diadiť Boureima is being rather disingenuous here about what happened with Aisha. Well, perhaps I'm being to generous ó what he says is flatly false, so either he is too ignorant about Islam to be speaking on the subject or he is trying to put a good face on things for an audience he expects won't like the truth.
The Hadith is absolutely clear that Aisha was forced into a marriage with Muhammad when she was about six years old and then he consummated their marriage by having sex with her when she was just nine:
Khadija died three years before the Prophet departed to Medina. He stayed there for two years or so and then he married 'Aisha when she was a girl of six years of age, and he consumed that marriage when she was nine years old. [Sahih Bukhari 5:58:236]
The Prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with 'Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death).] [Sahih Bukhari 7:62:88]
When we came to Medina, the women came to me when I was playing on the swing, and my hair were up to my ears. They brought me, prepared me, and decorated me. Then they brought me to the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) and he took up cohabitation with me, when I was nine. [Sunnan Abu Dawud 41:4917]
'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) married her when she was seven years old, and he was taken to his house as a bride when she was nine, and her dolls were with her; and when he (the Holy Prophet) died she was eighteen years old. [Sahih Muslim 8:3311]
Notice in the above news report that it was mainstream Muslim organizations which destroyed efforts to keep adult men from having sex with little girls. This can't be blamed on a few fringe extremists, and that's hardly surprising since the Prophet Muhammad led the way in this area. If Muhammad can marry a little girl and then have sex with her, why can't Muslim men today do the same?
"We have advocated that religious officials can perform marriage ceremonies between adults and children, but that people should not consummate the marriage until the child reaches puberty," he said. "The real problem is that at the national level the government is afraid to take certain measures," he added.
In the spirit of cooperation and compromise, defenders of the right of girls not to be molested by adult men are trying to work out a deal with religious traditionalists who want to preserve men's access to child brides. The "compromise" is that men should be allowed to continue marrying little girls, but they should refrain from having sex with those little girls until menstruation begins.
And it still won't be pedophilia.
Emotional maturity is irrelevant. Psychological maturity is irrelevant. All other forms of physical maturity are irrelevant. All that matters is that the girl is technically capable of becoming pregnant ó even if the pregnancy might destroy her fertility or even kill her. In such a context, it's hard not to conclude that females here only have value for sex and pregnancy.
It's also hard not to conclude that it's a huge mistake to imagine that part of the problem is the belief that one should compromise even with mainstream religious groups when it comes to defending human rights. These mainstream Muslim groups may not be as bad as the extremists, but if the best they are going to offer is "no sex until puberty," then I'm afraid that they just don't value female lives and equality enough to be worth working with. It's a bit like "compromising" and saying "it's not rape until she shows skin above the thighs" or "it's not spousal abuse unless it leaves marks that last for more than three days."