Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council, the nation’s consultative assembly, has submitted a proposal this week that stipulates increasing the minimum marriage age limit for girls in the KIngdom from 15 to 18 years. As reported by Saudi Gazette, the proposal, which will make it illegal for girls under 18 to get married, was presented by five members of the Council: Moudi Al-Khalaf, Latifa Al-Shaalan, Noura Al-Musaid, Essa Al-Ghaith, and Fowziyah Abalkhail.
Under the new proposal, girls under 18 years may only get married if certain conditions are met, specifically: attaining the consent of both the mother of the bride and the bride herself, presenting a medical report stating that the bride is physically and psychologically fit for marriage, getting married to a groom who should not be older than twice the bride’s age, and getting married only through an official specialized in marriages of said age group.
The Shoura Council members defended the proposal by stating that Islam prioritizes safety and protection, and that since marriage can be physically, psychologically, and socially harmful to young girls, it should therefore be banned. The news site reported that the Council's Islamic Affairs Committee rejected the proposal claiming that the issue is already being dealt with by the Council of Senior Scholars.
Several Shoura members have been pushing for years on completely banning the marriage of girls under 16. Last year, members sent a letter to the Justice Ministry demanding that marriage for girls under 15 years of age be banned. According in Stepfeed, the ministry submitted a report back in 2014 detailing the negative social and psychological effects of underage marriage – including religious, social, and medical views and recommendations – to religious scholars, requesting a fatwa against the practice.
Gulf News also reported earlier this year that the Council had pushed further for the consent of courts, parents, and the bride for those under 18 in a bid to curb child marriages, particularly in the conservative areas of Saudi Arabia where minors are often forced to marry much older men.