Markets in everything

by on August 20, 2008 at 1:06 pm in Current Affairs | Permalink

A 16-year-old Saudi girl drank a bottle of bleach in an attempt to
commit suicide to escape a forced marriage to a 75-year-old man, press
reports revealed Sunday.

The girl identified only as, Shaikha, said her father was forcing her
to marry the old man so that he could marry his 13-year-old daughter in
an exchange deal, Bahrain’s Tribune reported.

Here is the full story.

Jon August 20, 2008 at 1:17 pm

Anyone who would do that to their daughter is sick. In any “normal” country both of those males would be prosecuted for rape and or sexual abuse of a child. 13?!

I think I threw up in my mouth a little bit.

d.cous. August 20, 2008 at 1:29 pm

Sadly, I’m not sure this merits the “Markets in everything” tag, since slavery is one of the oldest markets known to exist, and isn’t nearly as surprising as other entries in the series.

It is, however, appalling on pretty much every possible level. I suppose the fact that this is making news might be a small sign of improvement, but I wouldn’t know.

dr3w August 20, 2008 at 1:31 pm

I’m bet this transaction was going to be celebrated with a toast of oil-filled champagne glasses, followed by a soak in a jacuzzi filled with oil.

jon- i’m with you on the bad taste that came up the back of my throat.

jack August 20, 2008 at 2:08 pm

Can anyone recommend me some pop economics books besides Freakonomics?

Isaac Crawford August 20, 2008 at 2:33 pm

To be fair, I’m pretty sure that most muslims feel that forcing a daughter to marry is haraam (forbidden by God). In addition, while child marriages are fairly common (from an American’s standpoint) in the middle east, it is understood that the marriage would not be consummated until the girl achieves sexual maturity. Apparently, the prophet Mohammed did this, and that’s the excuse for continuing the practice today. Never mind that things have changed a bit since his time… So forcing a girl to marry and having sex with children is considered haraam by many people, but tribal norms often times trump religion, and of course there’s always the possibility of sickos taking advantage of those norms… A sad story any way you look at it.

Isaac Crawford
Blogging in Yemen
http://www.isaharr.com

mthomas August 20, 2008 at 2:46 pm

dk,

evidence, argument, assertion – I would make distinctions between these three words.

A possible first approximation to refute your assertion: People behave rationally, even people who you do not like. My french is not so good, but the earlier commenter seems to be directing us to a cite on perversion, to the extent that this case is an example of irrational behavior, we cannot really say much about this case other than it is unfortunate that mental disease exists.

If we were willing to view this “father” (a term which I wouldn’t really apply to this case since it does not fit our common use of the word) as a rational actor however, we have to have some explanation of his behavior. The child is an asset to him in a world where property rights of male haploid cell donor is given full rights to his children. I think that we can safely classify this particular property rights situation as slavery. We know from careful analysis of slavery in other contexts (RW Fogel, JR Hummel) that its usefulness is dictated by opportunity costs of the asset. While I agree that the systematic disenfranchisement of women is a problem for the analysis (the article talks about the de jure necessity of consent of both parties, but I will grant you that de facto this is absurd), I believe that even this would break down endogenously as wealth increases.

Additional comments:
What I remain ignorant of is the wealth of the family in question. Surely poverty exists in Saudi Arabia even if the top families are among the wealthiest in the world. My quick web search did not produce a Gini coefficient or statistics on poverty for the country, so as of now I have not eliminated my ignorance.

What I do object to, as evidenced above, is analysis based on repugnance and misplaced cosmopolitan justification for intervention. Granted, this is my own horn to toot and does nothing to help the poor individual in question, but I would like to advocate for more dispassionate analysis potentially applicable in a broader context.

KingM August 20, 2008 at 3:03 pm

It sounds a lot like what those Mormon fundamentalists were doing in Texas.

joan August 20, 2008 at 6:40 pm

The last paragraph of the story says
“Islamic law states that for a marriage to be legal both parties must consent.”
Yet most people here assumed that this is a product of their religion and not the screwed up society that exists in Saudi Arabia. There was a time that such things happened in Christian countries, and is the result of denying rights to women and which still echoes in the way western society treats women.

BoscoH August 20, 2008 at 8:41 pm

Maybe the idea of having a 13-year old step mum freaked her out. After-all, she was 16. At least there was no Craigslist angle to this. That would have been weird.

Jeff Goldman August 21, 2008 at 11:08 am

Assuming the story is true, this is awful. But her fate is no worse than those of American men who get bulldozed by politically-driven prosecutions of rapes that never occurred. Does the Saudi system result in more injustice than the man-hating paranoia we have in the United States? I have no idea.

d.cous. August 21, 2008 at 12:50 pm

“Who cares about the age? It’s the FORCING that’s bad.”

In this case, I’d actually say it’s both. According to the story it’s the 16-year-old who objected and was being forced, and that’s terrible. It doesn’t really mention what the 13-year-old thought of the arrangement, but I assert that even if she’s alright with it, it’s still awful. I admit that where the line is drawn is necessarily somewhat arbitrary, but I think that the idea of an age of consent is a very good one. A 13-year-old girl may very well be willing, particularly given a messed-up upbringing, to marry a man old enough to be her grandfather, but I seriously question how informed a decision she is equipped to make at that point.

Also, aren’t there serious physical and psychological health concerns here? I’m not a doctor, but it seems like if the girl is BARELY adolescent, there’s a lot that could go wrong. I could be wrong.

I would tend to apply this more to Saudi or even more local culture than to Islam as a whole, notwithstanding the whole Mohammmed/Aisha thing. Yes, I’m pretty sure that Christians/Europeans used to have somewhat common forced and underage marriages, too. There are a lot of things our society has done wrong, but I don’t think abolishing that sort of thing is one of them.

Whine about Income disparity in the West if you wish, but it’s stunning to me that Saudi Arabia has some of the wealthiest people in the world, and also (apparently) people still essentially in the dark ages.

Jeff Goldman August 21, 2008 at 2:57 pm

D.Cous, I don’t think this is a random place to bring up the failings of our own system because people always tend to notice the moral problems in others’ systems but not in their own. So Westerners read about a story like this and think to themselves, how can those Saudis be such obtuse barbarians? And I would argue that our system is not necessarily better from a moral standpoint. Just a few moral failings we have that we don’t talk about:

1. The labeling of men as sex offenders for petty offenses. This is made possible by the climate of man-hating that pervades our major media outlets.
2. The labeling of young boys as sex offenders.
3. Prosecuting innocent men on trumped up charges of rape.

Je pense, donc je suis. August 22, 2008 at 1:50 pm

It sounds a lot like what those Mormon fundamentalists were doing in Texas.

I think you mean Mormon Fundamentalists (uppercase). Most Mormon fundamentalists (lowercase) would be appalled by this.

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