Manama: A member of Bahrain’s parliament has said the minimum age of marriage for young women should be 18.

“We are looking into a proposal that the minimum age be raised from 15 to 18 for women,” said Fatima Al Kooheji, a member of the Women and Children’s Committee at the Shura (Consultative) Council, the upper chamber of parliament.

She said there was a constitutional issue with the current legal marrying age of 15 for women and 18 for men.

“The difference in the age requirements for men and women is not constitutional since Article 18 of the constitution states that there is no discrimination based on sex,” Al Kooheji said in remarks carried by Bahraini daily Al Ayam on Monday.

“Another argument is that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child defines child as ‘a human being below the age of 18 years’. Bahrain has ratified this convention and this means that a girl under 18 is a child and therefore she cannot assume the responsibilities of marriage in all its aspects,” she added.

She said women in Bahrain enjoyed a good level of awareness regarding marriage issues.

“However, there are some families with limited income or some large families that push their young girls to get married at an early age in order to alleviate financial burdens. This is highly unfortunate because the girls are still too young to put up with the challenges and demands of marriage and motherhood,” she said.

The Shura member said such early marriages could have highly negative effects on families and society in general, including an increase in the number of divorces.

“Many young women, shocked by the weight of the responsibilities on their shoulders, seek a way out of marriage,” Al Kooheji said. “The new minimum age of 18 allows young women to develop physically and mentally and permits them to finish their high school education. So far, education is compulsory only in the elementary schools, and we will work hard to ensure that it is extended to the high schools,” she said.