Following are excerpts from a TV program on child marriage in the Arab world, which aired on Abu Dhabi TV on October 17, 2010:
Reporter: Fawziyya Al-Jammal is happy with the six children that successfully led to the birth of 32 grandchildren. She married off her six daughters between the ages of 11-16, a practice that is a source of pride for her among the villagers of Upper Egypt.
Fawziyya Al-Jammal: I'm proud that I married them off, and managed to protect their honor. They are living happily in their husbands' homes. What should I keep them here for? When her time comes, I marry her off. If a girl turns 16 and isn't married yet, she is considered an old maid.
Reporter: Fawziyya has repeated her own experience with her daughters. She herself entered the cage of marriage before the age of 15.
Fawziyya Al-Jammal: If a girl marries young, she remains young and beautiful, and when Allah grants her children, her children will be beautiful as well.
Reporter: Fawziyya did not give birth to boys and she became a widow early on, but Allah granted her obedient daughters.
This is her eldest daughter. She got married at the age of 11, gave birth at the age of 12, and married her eldest daughter off at the age of 15.
Fawziyya Al-Jammal's eldest daughter: I don't regret being married off at the age of 11. I would have regretted getting married at an older age, and I'm proud that I married off my children at an early age, like myself.
Reporter: This is the youngest daughter. For reasons beyond her control, she got married only at the age of 18, but she hopes to marry her daughters off at an early age.
Fawziyya Al-Jammal's youngest daughter: It is better to marry a girl off when she is young. She will get a chance to marry off her own children. I have an eight-year-old daughter, who is in primary school. I teach her how to bake bread and do all the house chores. If a girl can do all the house chores, she can get married at any age. This does not deny her the joys of childhood.
They can make whatever laws they want, but in the villages, we don't abide by them. Girls continue to marry young no matter what.
Reporter: Until when will the laws of Upper Egypt supersede all other law, including the personal status law, which sets the minimum age for girls to marry at 18?
Interviewer: In Saudi Arabia, is it the religious establishment or tradition that hinders the setting of a minimum age for marriage?
Wajiha Al-Huweidar, Saudi activist for women's rights: The two are interrelated. They are in agreement with one another. For a long time, they have been deceiving us, saying that boys and girls should not mix, but a year ago, Sheik Ahmad Al-Ghamedi, who belongs to the religious establishment, said, loud and clear, that it was all one big lie – that mixing of the sexes is permitted and that the ban was for political purposes.
We move from one lie to another. We live in illusions that are presented as religion. The truth, however, is that this has nothing to do with religion and that it has been used a means to an end.