Abu Dhabi: Saudi Arabia has given a boost to women’s rights - mainly the right to choice and consent in marriage - as the country recently adopted dramatic social and legal reforms, local media reported.
The move enhanced women’s independence in choosing and unequivocally agreeing on the marriage partner. Scholars and legal experts said the reformed regulations allowed a woman to attend her wedding session, check terms of the marriage contract and approve it, as marriage is a lasting partnership between the spouses based on their wish to be linked together.
Although the woman’s choice and consent is essential for the validity of the marriage, there are a few people who still force on women what is known as Gift Marriage, in which the woman is offered as a wife to a man, without her consent and without dowry, Al Watan reported.
This forced marriage violates Islamic Sharia and causes many family issues, including high divorce cases, and sometimes marital infidelities, scholars said.
Ruling on gift marriage
According to an Islamic Fatwa (edict) by Sheikh Mohammad Salih Al Othaymeen, marriage is not valid without the woman’s permission, and that marrying a girl without her knowledge is forbidden, and the marriage contract is not valid unless she permits it after that.
Hani Al Ghamdi, a psychoanalyst, says, “Islam is keen on choosing and consent in marriage, so it forbids forcing a woman to marry her cousin for instance.
“A woman has the right to choose who she marries, when she marries, or if she marries at all. A marriage is a forced marriage if a woman has not been able to make any of those choices i.e. if she has faced physical pressure to marry e.g. threats, physical violence, sexual violence or; emotional or psychological pressure e.g. if she is made to feel like she is bringing shame on her family,’ he said.
Dr. Samira Al Ghamdi, Chairman of the National Association for the Protection of the Family, says, “Women are not a commodity to be offered as a “gift”, nor are they private property to be sold and bought. Forced marriage violates basic human rights on choice and freedom to consent, causes physical and mental illnesses and divorce in up to 80 per cent of such marriages.
Lawyer Hassan Al Zahrani stated that a woman has the right to sue her husband and father, claiming that she did not consent to the marriage, and if her allegations are proven, the court will annul the marriage contract and oblige her father to return the full dowry to the husband.