Manama: The consent of the girl and her mother and the approval of the court are among the requirements in case of an under-18 marriage, according to a recent recommendation by an ad-hoc inter-ministerial committee set up to look into the marriage of minors in Saudi Arabia.

The committee said that the age of majority is 18 and all marriage contracts below that age must fulfill a list of requirements that include banning the health ministry from conducting premarital checkups for underage would-be brides without the approval of a judge.

Mo marriage contract can be drawn for underage girls outside the court and violators should be punished severely, the committee said in its recommendations, Saudi daily Okaz reported on Sunday.

A judge looking into an application for underage marriage should summon the girl and hear directly from her that she was consenting to get married. He should also make sure the marriage does not pose any risks to her life. The judge should also listen to the girl’s mother, the committee said.

The application should include medical reports from state doctors and experts about the physical and mental state of the girl to ensure there are no abuses.
A social expert designated by the court should provide a report about the psychological compatibility of the two future spouses. 

The regulations recommended by the committee also require the judge to order the girl to join a programme for preparing girls about to get married that offers psychological training and a greater knowledge of family responsibilities following the marriage.

According to the committee, the same regulations should apply to non-Saudi girls under 18 living in Saudi Arabia. Marriages of underage non-Saudi girls contracted outside Saudi Arabia do not have to come under the regulations.

The committee requested the justice ministry to include the regulations in its online marriage contracts, and the culture and information ministry to promote awareness programmes about the negative psychological and social aspects of underage marriages.

The committee said the Islamic affairs ministry should recommend to mosque imams and preachers to urge parents to show care, honesty and a sense of responsibility towards their daughters by highlighting the importance of the girl’s consent to get married. 

The daughters should be made fully aware that they cannot be forced into marriage and that they should choose their future husbands carefully, the committee said.

In 2013, Saudi Arabia set 16 as the minimum age of marriage for girls as it introduced new regulations in a bid to curb child marriages mainly in the conservative areas of the vast kingdom where minors are often forced by their fathers to marry much older men.

Lawyers and human rights activists have often been at loggerheads over a minimum marriage age with conservative scholars.

Proponents of a minimum age argue there is a crucial need to educate families culturally and socially, and specify that the core of the problem lies at the ignorance of many families and at the outdated customs and traditions that are still prevailing mainly in rural areas.

Those who support early marriages argue that its advantages include preventing deviation in adolescence and having a fully functional family.

Several members of the Shura (Consultative) Council have been pushing for banning completely the marriage of girls under 15 and for the consent of courts for under 18 marriages.