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Saudi Shura tightens rules on early marriages

Four conditions must be met to agree to under 18 marriage

Manama: Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council has recommended four conditions to allow the marriage of girls aged between 15 and 18.

The Shura said in its recommendations to the justice ministry said that no girl below the age of 15 should be permitted to get married, regardless of the circumstances.

The 150-member advisory body added that for the marriage of girls above 15 and below 18, the approval of the girl and her mother and a medical report testifying the girl is physically, psychologically and socially fit for marriage are required.

The other two conditions are that the age of the groom should not be more than the double of the bride and that the marriage contract should be drafted by expert judges.

The Shura Council which includes 30 women said that the recommendations were necessary to ensure no party is harmed in the marriage and that they were based on past experiences of underage marriages.

The members said they based their recommendations on fatwas by religious scholars and on the laws of some Gulf countries and Egypt which clearly stipulate that the minimum age for marriage is 18, London-based Al Hayat reported.

The Shura said studies proved that early marriages had negative physical effects on girls' health, an increased rate of abortion and premature births, an increase in caesareans and a high neonatal mortality.

The Shura also stressed the psychological consequences of underage marriages on mothers, arguing studies have shown that such marriages were linked to the suffering of mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, hallucinations, social concerns, sleep disorders and sexual compatibility problems. They extend to various psychological complications suffered by the children of young mothers due to their lack of mental maturity and psychological readiness to perform maternity functions.

The physical, psychological and social problems of both the minor mothers and their children constitute an additional economic burden on the health and social welfare sectors in the country, the Shura said.

According to the advisory body, one of the most severe consequences of early marriages and pregnancies is the spread of the phenomenon of dropping out of school.

The relationship between poverty and early marriage is a complex vicious circle with multiple dimensions, the Shura said.

Poverty is not only one of the causes of early marriages, it is also one of the causes of persistent poverty, especially when these girls become in charge of families in cases they divorce or become widows, the Shura added.

Minimum marriage age in some countries

Country   FemaleMale
Algeria                       1821
Egypt  1618