No minimum age for marriage of girls – Grand Mufti

Announcement comes despite Ministry of Justice proposal to limit marriageable age to 15

Saudi's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh. (AFP/Getty Images)

Saudi's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh. (AFP/Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia’s religious leader, Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Asheikh, has said that he does not plan to restrict the minimum age for marriage for women to 15 years, contravening a recent proposal from the country’s Ministry of Justice. 

In an interview with the Al Riyadh, reported by the Saudi Gazette, the Grand Mufti described the marriage of girls below that age as “permissible”.

The issue is a controversial one both inside and outside Saudi Arabia, where the Ministry of Justice two years ago submitted a proposal to limit the marriage age of women to 15 years old. In 2011, the kingdom’s Shoura Council was also reported to recommend the introduction of an age limit, but nothing concrete has been heard since.

The report quoted a source in the Ministry of Justice, which said that its new proposal planned to transfer the power to marry under-age girls from a marriage official to a Sharia court judge, and that marriages could only be approved with the consent of both the girl and the girl’s mother.

In addition, any request to marry a girl below the age of 15 would need to be accompanied by a medical report from a specialist committee, which would include a female gynaecologist and obstetrician, as well as a female psychiatrist and sociologist.

The source also said that the guardians of the girl should also “also ensure that the marriage is not consummated until the girl has been given sufficient time to be prepared mentally and is trained to take up the responsibilities of family life”.

Cases of child marriage, including brides as young as eight years old, have made headlines in local and international media in recent years.

In 2010, the Saudi Human Rights Commission, a government-affiliated group, hired a lawyer to help a 12-year old divorce her 80-year old husband.

Activists at the time saw the divorce proceedings as a test case that could pave the way for introducing a minimum age for marriage.

In 2009 the Justice Minister said that there were plans to regulate the marriages of young girls after a court refused to nullify the marriage of an eight-year old girl to a man 50 years her senior.

Saudi Arabia is a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child, which considers those under the age of 18 as children.

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Posted by: SAM

It will all be fine once we accept the premise that human beings do not develop at the same rate and development is not always in the same direction. We are all from the same species, but with divergent development. People in the East are not the same as those from the West and will never be; 2000 years of history has shown that it is so. Unfortunate writings over the centuries have mistakenly led us to believe that we are all the same, but the observed reality says otherwise; some cultures will never adopt another's because the value system diverged and to reconcile such differences between cultures is near impossible. Just my opinion. Personally, I think it is repugnant and savagery beyond belief.

Posted by: Joe Bloggs

Yes, girls in the West do get pregnant at 15 or younger. So what? That doesn't make it right or acceptable, nor does it mean we approve of it. It's also still illegal, and the men - if they are men and not boys - will be prosecuted for getting them pregnant.

Posted by: Doug

There is also the related issue that when a girl in the West becomes pregnant at 15 or younger, there is usually some form of mutual consent involved ie. the girl probably agreed/wanted to participate in actions which could lead to pregnancy - even if they didn't necessarily want to become pregnant.

However, marriage in Saudi Arabia is much more of a parentally dominated affair and one would imagine in the numerous cases we read of young girls marrying men several years older than themselves, the girl in question probably has limited opportunities to refuse to marry. THAT'S what really sits at the heart of this - whether parents have the right to use children as bargaining chips and currency, or whether children should have the opportunity to have a say in whether or not they wish to take on a lifetime commitment.

Posted by: Peter Peter

Unfortunately many religious leaders - from many different faiths - base their opinions on their interpretation of their scriptures rather than well known facts or even universal experience.

It has been proven medically that 15 is too young an age to bear children - both physically and psychologically. If young girls in western countries are indulging in free sex at that age and getting pregnant then it is an indictment of that society , but does not in any way justify what is being proposed here.

In this day and age it is imperative for all children to be educated and thrusting little girls into marriage without any say in what happens to them is just cruel and unfair.

Posted by: Noorbhai millwala

I would suggest that under age girl can perform Nikkah on approval of her mother father or family members,but there should be a law that when she only becomes of 17 or 18 years old she should be allowed to go to her husband home and not earlier,when she will be in position to take responsibilities accordingly.

Posted by: red

what about the childs right to be a child, her right to be an individual, her right to determine her future.
she is not a possession, she is someone with fears, aspirations, hope, she should not be condemmed to submission to another person. time has moved on. such as you would not not like to be sold into slavery, because this is what it is,

Posted by: Salman

Dude are you serious.
This is wrong. Atleast make decisions on the basis of the current socio-economic condition. Also people are not much educated so there will be alot of conequences. This is disgusting indeed.

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