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In 2019, Saudi Arabia’s Justice Ministry issued a memorandum to courts and marriage officials ('maazouns') to refrain from officiating marriages for those under the age of 18. Image Credit:

Dubai: More than 400 minors reportedly got married in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province in the first three months of this year, with an average of four cases every day, local media reported.

According to Al Watan newspaper, the Family Protection Centres in the Eastern Province said they had dealt with 417 marriage cases of minors in the first three months of this year. All these cases were referred to the centres by the Ministry of Justice.

In 2019, Saudi Arabia’s Justice Ministry issued a memorandum to courts and marriage officials ('maazouns') to refrain from officiating marriages for those under the age of 18.

Issued by Justice Minister, Dr Walid bin Mohammed Al Samaani, the instructions were for courts and officials to refer all such cases to the competent courts in accordance with the Child Protection Law. The law, introduced in 2014, has a provision that states: “Before the conclusion of the marriage contract, it is necessary to ensure that a person marrying under the age of 18 will not be harmed, whether male or female.”

While not banning marriages below 18 entirely, it adds another step to the process. Therefore, such marriages will need the approval of a specialised court, which must determine whether the marriage would harm the minors in question and if it is in their best interests.

The Kingdom’s advisory Shoura Council approved a ban on the marriage of minors, male or female, below the age of 15 in 2019. As per its stipulations, marriages of those below the age of 18 would need permission from a specialised court.