Several Shoura Council members have sent a recommendation to the Justice Ministry saying that no girl under 15 should marry, according to sources quoted by Okaz Arabic newspaper.
The recommendation, drafted by Moodhy Al-Khalaf, Latifa Al-Shaalan, Noura Al-Musaed, Issa Al-Ghaith and Fawzya Aba Al-Khail, stressed the need to have strict conditions that would allow girls between 15 and 18 years old to marry.
Shoura members explained that these conditions include the approval of the mother and bride-to-be, as well as a medical report by a specialized committee stating the girl is physically, psychologically and socially able to wed.
The age of the groom-to-be should not exceed double the girl’s age.
The final condition is for the marriage contract to be officiated by a judge specialized in these marriages.
Shoura members explained that this recommendation falls within Shariah rules protecting human life from harm, explaining that it has been proved that minors’ marriages cause psychological, physical and social damages.
Members added that regulating marriages does not fall under worship and religious issues, but a life issue that is subject to change, highlighting that there are many Islamic countries that regulate ages for marriages, such as the Egyptian law that prevents any marriage if the girl is under 18 years of age.
The Shoura Council stressed that early marriages not only compromise health issues, but also cause women to drop out of school, which is the main repercussion of early marriage, leading Shoura members to stress the need to empower women via education and to change the traditional social and cultural roles that undermine them.
The relationship between poverty and early marriage is a multi-layered complicated cycle; not only is poverty one of the reasons behind early marriage, it also leads to the continuation of poverty, particularly when these young mothers become responsible for their families in case of divorce or the spouse’s death.
International treaties signed by the Kingdom prevent allowing minor girls to marry, including the 1988 UN Convention on the Rights of Children.
The Kingdom signed the 1979 Convention to Eliminate all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which states in Article 16 that the engagement or marriage of children has no legal basis, and identifies the need to have a law that states a minimum age for marriage.