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Mon 22 Dec 2014 01:26 PM

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No minimum age for marriage of girls – Grand Mufti

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

No minimum age for marriage of girls – Grand Mufti
Saudis 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.

Andreas 4 years ago

The girls should be minimum 18 years old and be able to make their own decisions. Marrying a girl at the age of 15 is abnormal. They need to be protected by law.

Mark Renton 4 years ago

The psychiatrist should not be examining the under-age girl. The person that needs psychiatric help is the man who wants to marry a child.

Omar Abdulwahab 4 years ago

'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”
This statement is ridiculous! There are still fully grown women these days that can't take up the responsibilities of family life!
Most likely the girls family are marrying their children off for dowry money!
Kids should do kids things like play with other kids and toys, not cook clean and attend to bedroom duties! Disgusting!

abusidra 4 years ago

Dear Andreas, Many high school girls in UK, in western countries have children, pregnancies, abortions, miscarriages etc at this age and out of wedlock, so if it is practiced in a legal & social way, why make a big issue out of a few rare instances of extremism, almost all the cases are quiet normal and healthy. By the way can you ask a high school western girl or boy to restrain from sexual life? Try it.

Hmaza Ali 4 years ago

I hope the Mufti is aware of the psychological impact of a 15 year old having children. " Children having Children" . They are not equipped Intellectually or Psychological to do. He is condemning a whole new society in my opinion. The Mufti scientific knowledge is limited in my opinion.

James 4 years ago

Another classic example of 'whataboutery' that has no bearing on the the OP said.

How is it in any way relevant what 'many' (you might want fact check a little bit) UK schoolgirls do or do not do? The article is about a religious leader endorsing a legal position that there should be no minimum age of marriage for girls in SAUDI ARABIA.

My personal opinion is that any man who wishes to marry a child should be defenestrated.

Salman 4 years ago

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.

Noorbhai millwala 4 years ago

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.

Peter Peter 4 years ago

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.

red 4 years ago

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,