Saudi Arabia looks to set mimimum marriage age

Posted on | augustus 4, 2011 | No Comments

Across the globe more than 60 million girls find themselves the innocent victims, as child brides, despite the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child placement of 18 years-old as the minimum age for marriage.  However while many countries have set 18 as the minimum age others have placed 16 years-old as the age.  Nonetheless other countries  have yet to set or enforce a minimum age for marriage.

Child marriage is widespread across the Gulf Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, much of which is due to the lack of a law to set a minimum age for which girls are to marry and thus outlaw such open practices that have allowed young girls to be forced into marriage.  With no set laws defining the minimum age for which one can marry in Saudi Arabia, girls are often forced by their fathers to marry much older men for dowry or other personal purposes.  This unregulated and archaic practice has thus has allowed for girls as young as eight years years-old to be entered into the act of marriage many of whom with men old enough to be their grandfathers. 

Following years of public outcry, both nationally and internationally, the conservative government of the Gulf Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to drive, work, travel abroad or undergo surgery without the permission of a male relative, has now expressed an intention to set a minimum age for which girls allowed to marry.  Under a new law, which is intended to curb child marriages after a sudden increase swept the country in recent year, the ministry of justice now seeks to establish a new regulation banning the marriage of female minors.  The law, which is currently said to be being drafted, has yet to be issued, nor has it been released as to what age will be set as the minimum age for girls to marry. 

The proposed law, if drafted will be the first in the region which explicitly sets a minimum marriage age.  It has been reported that the law already has the support of the country’s parliament and King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz.  However the pending legislation has not been without opposition, as the proposal, which did not give a specific age, was openly opposed earlier this month by a powerful Muslim cleric, Sheik Saleh al-Fawzan.  ‘al-Fawzan issued a religious ruling to allow fathers to arrange marriages for their daughters “even if they are in the cradle,” setting up a confrontation between government reformers and influential conservative clergy’ (The Wall Street Journal).  Additonally al-Fawzan issued a religious ruling, which citied a Quran passage regarding the prophet Muhammad’s marriage to a 6-year-old girl (In 2003, Dr. Fawzan also issued a fatwa that “slavery is a part of Islam.”) (The Christian Science Monitor).  

The question now is one that has sadly gone unanswered many times before, as noted int he 2009 post Is an End to Child Marriage in Sight

AUTHOR: Cassandra Clifford
URL: and
E-MAIL: Cassandra [at]


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