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Wed 2 Jun 2010 08:32 AM

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New Saudi marriage contracts require bride's age

Move hailed by human rights group as first step to outlawing child marriages.

New Saudi marriage contracts require bride's age
CHILD BRIDE: The move follows a number of marriages of young girls to much older men in the kingdom. (Getty Images)

New marriage contracts which require the bride’s age to be recorded have been distributed by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Justice as part of efforts to stop child marriages.

Sources in the ministry told Arab News the move represented a “serious step to prevent the marriage of young girls.”

The move has been welcomed by the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) and follows a number of high profile cases of children as young as eight being married off to much older men, the paper reports.

Earlier this year, the kingdom’s human rights commission intervened in a case where a 12-year-old girl was married to her father’s 80-year-old cousin.

Human rights and religious groups have demanded an end to child marriages and urged changes in the law to set a minimum marriage age. Marriage officials questioned by the paper said they expected this to be set at 17 or 18.

Support among the Saudi population for an end to child marriages is also strong. A recent survey by YouGovSiraj found 62 percent of people wanted a minimum marriage age set for women.

Overall, 70 percent of people said they would support such legislation if it was introduced, of which 67 percent were men and 80 percent were women.

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Rajesh 10 years ago

Excellent move towards curbing the exploitation of the teenage age in the name of marraige. Their bodies and mind are not matured enough to understand the realities of marraige. Even Islam does not allow them. So guys do spread the word around.

Noor Siddiqi 10 years ago

It is very refreshing to hear the news that Majority of Saudi people accept this new law. This sends a powerful message to the outside world that Saudi society is changing and undersatnds the ramifications of the same.

Saudi Engineer 9 years ago

Let me start by saying if this ever does pass as a resolution of any kind, it's going to see a LOT of resistance. The religious establishment will probably be against it, as well as the more old-fashioned population of KSA (which is not small).
I, who consider myself a moderate and relatively open minded young Saudi, would probably not support such legislation.

Why is it allowable for teens in the West to have premarital (and uncontrolled and unprotected) sex, while they want to outlaw *marriage* for teens in KSA? Next they may call for the outlawing of all marriage.

That said, I'm not saying the idea of teen marriage (or any marriage) shouldn't be properly regulated. Islam states that *no one* can be forced into marriage. No man, nor woman nor girl or child can be forced into a marriage. One of the "prerequisites" of marriage is the consent of all parties involved. Now a father can prevent his daughter from marrying, but he cannot force her into a marriage.