Young Brides in Muslim Countries

Saudi Arabia Mulls Minimum Age for Marriage

By & Newspapers


Obaikan called for a ban on marrying off young girls below the age of 18. (Google)
Obaikan called for a ban on marrying off young girls below the age of 18. (Google)

CAIRO — Following a series of marriages of young girls to men at the age of their fathers, Saudi Arabia is mulling introducing a minimum age for marriage, Al-Madina newspaper reported Sunday, April 19.”The Justice Ministry has started looking into the legal age of marriages,” Mohamed bin Abdel-Rahman al-Babtain, the director of marriage officials, said.

He did not elaborate.

Saudi Arabia has no legal age limit for marriage.  Justice ministry officials were not available for comment.

The move comes after a court in the town of Unaiza last week upheld for the second time the marriage of an 8-year-old girl to a man 50 years her senior.

The judge said he had tried to persuade the husband to accept a divorce, but the man refused.

The 8-year-old girl is still with her family and there is no suggestion that she will live with her husband until much older.

The judge said that once she reached puberty, she could ask for a divorce.


Prominent scholar Mohsen al-Obaikan said girls below the age of 18 should not be allowed to marry.

“Some parents marry off their daughters for personal or material interest or for various allurements with total disregard for the girl’s interest,” he said.

Obaikan, also an adviser to the Saudi King, also called for a ban on marrying off young girls below the age of 18.

“Marriage officials must abide by this.”

Though the girl must give her consent to the marriage, some marriage officials set the term aside.

The issue of child marriages has been sparking a headed debate in Saudi Arabia.

In many child marriages, girls are given away to older men in return for hefty dowries or as a result of long-standing custom in which a father promises his daughters and sons to marriage while children.

According to local statistics, in the most of these cases, the marriage is concluded without the girl’s knowledge or consent.

A United Nations report on child marriage in 2005 found that 100 million girls were expected to marry by the age of 18 before 2015.

The worst countries for child marriage were Niger, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, India and Bangladesh.

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