RIYADH: Saudi Justice Minister Dr. Walid bin Mohammed Al-Samaani on Monday issued a memorandum to all courts and marriage officials to refrain from concluding any marriage contract for those under the age of 18.
The minister instructed the courts and officials to refer all such cases to the competent courts to take necessary legal measures in accordance with the Child Protection Law.
The executive regulations of the Child Protection Law stipulate: “Before the conclusion of the marriage contract, it is necessary to ensure that a person marrying under the age of 18 will not be harmed, whether male or female.”
The circular also stated that matchmakers found violating the rules will also be held accountable and would be referred to the ministry for necessary legal action.
Maha Al-Wabel, a Saudi opinion writer, said that stories of minor marriages are so painful.
“Minors face psychological damages and even more,” she said that in a tweet. The Saudi Shoura Council voted earlier this year to ban underage marriages in the Kingdom. The council imposed the ban for both genders with the approval of two-thirds of its members.
The law was eight years in the making, and was put before the council at least five times in last year’s council sessions. The members voted to approve regulations limiting marriages of those under 18 years of age and banning marriages involving children under 15 years of age. The law was effective immediately.
Commenting on the passage of the law, Shoura Council member Dr. Hoda Al-Helaissi said: “You cannot expect a girl of 10 or 12 to understand what marital relations are, or for her body to correctly carry a baby. There are a lot of health issues involved.”
Child marriage is a generations-old custom still practiced today around the world in countries including India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Indonesia and Mexico. The custom has often gone unquestioned in such places since it has been part of communities’ lives and identities for a long time.
Child marriage is not just restricted to the developing world, however. It is legal — taking judicial exceptions into account — in 49 US states.
States often make exceptions to their minimum-age ruling if those below the age of 18 have parental consent, the approval of a judge, or are recognized as adults. And 25 states have no statutory minimum age for marriage to begin with, meaning that minors can legally marry other minors or adults.