Saudi Arabia’s fight against child marriage
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Justice has taken important steps to combat child marriage, warning licensed individuals who conclude marriage contracts (Maa’zoun) to ensure that the Kingdom’s child protection laws are upheld.
Poverty and cultural traditions, as well as social pressure and illiteracy, are blamed for early marriage.
The ministry also warned of penalties for those who fail to refer marriage applications for those under 18 to the relevant courts.
The Saudi Shoura Council has focused on adopting regulations to prevent marriage for those aged under 15, while the court’s permission is required for marriage of those under 18.
The Kingdom has taken a gradual path to fight underage marriage and protect underage girls from the phenomenon in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
After marriage applications for those under 18 are referred to the relevant courts, the courts study each case to ensure that all parties are not harmed in any way.
The Kingdom’s Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Labor and Social Development are working together to fight child marriage.
The phenomenon is widespread in the Middle East and Africa, with laws differing from one country to the next and varying responses to awareness campaigns.
However, the need for clearer laws remains urgent, and awareness-raising methods must also include empowering girls from a young age to practice their rights and protect their private lives.
This sensitive topic includes religious controversy, and I would like to clarify here that the law in the Kingdom is considered to be an implementer and supporter of Islamic law, which stipulates the interests of the parties to the marriage contract and their choice and empowerment of their rights above all.
Finally, due to the fact that this phenomenon is rooted from ancient eras, its control mechanisms are of long-term, gradual and far-reaching results, especially with the development of the age and the different circumstances of life from previous times that witnessed the height of this phenomenon.
• Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal consultant, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub and a member of the International Association of Lawyers. Twitter: @dimah_alsharif