Will child marriages ever end?



A member of the Shoura Council recently submitted a recommendation to the council calling for a ban on the marriage of girls under 15 years of age. This recommendation was submitted by a Shoura Council member and not by the Ministry of Justice, which has not resolved the thorny issue of underage marriage for decades and has not done anything about it.

Dr. Latifa Al-Shalan, who is a member of the Shoura Council, said child marriages are against the Convention of the Rights of the Child, the Convention of the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Children and Women, adding that the Kingdom is signatory to all of the above agreements. Although child marriages are a crime in all countries, the Ministry of Justice has so far not taken any action to deal with this issue.

The ministry’s inaction can be explained from a religious perspective because Islam does not set a specific age for marriage. The majority of senior Saudi scholars permit marriages for girls under 15, based on the saying reported on the authority of the wife of the Prophet, Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), in which she says that she got married to the Prophet (peace be upon him) when she was six years old and that the marriage was consummated when she was nine.

However, lifestyles and traditions at that time were different from those of today. For example, many of the prevalent traditions and customs that were acceptable then are frowned upon today, especially those related to marriage. How can a 12-year-old child carry a baby, give birth and take care of a child when she herself is a child and in need of care and nurture?

Advanced countries consider child marriages as a crime because the little girl will be deprived of her right to enjoy her childhood and to receive an education. She would also be exposed to medical risks related to pregnancy.

Based on the above, I kindly ask Minister of Justice Dr. Waleed Al-Samaani to consider issuing a decision prohibiting the marriage of underage girls. Such a decision would save young girls from various injustices and prevent them from becoming victims of greedy men. Moreover, the decision would improve our image globally, especially in terms of human rights.