Debate over underage marriage rages in Saudi Arabia

[Reem Al Bayyat] Saudi human rights advocates want to stop the marriage of under-aged girls in the kingdom.

[Reem Al Bayyat] Saudi human rights advocates want to stop the marriage of under-aged girls in the kingdom.

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"Without mercy or compassion, he undressed amidst my screams. I felt the room become smaller ..."

That is how Malak, age 12, from the city of Jubail in eastern Saudi Arabia recalled the story of her marriage, which had no preludes, except for a "barbarous rape", followed by the ambulance that took her to the emergency room.

The story of Malak’s marriage was repeated with Fatima, Rasha, Abeer, and most recently, the 'Onaiza girl' in central Saudi Arabia, a 12 year-old married to an 80-year-old man.

The debate over the marriage of underage girls still rages in Saudi Arabia. Recently, the debate was renewed when a mother filed a complaint with officials to convey the cries of her daughter, "Help me, I don't want him." This rattled the Saudi judiciary system, which lacks written laws on the issue and relies on sharia, interpretations of the members of the Supreme Judicial Council and some of the court judges.

Saudi Arabia is the only Arab country that has not stipulated the age of marriage for a boy or a girl, and there are no accurate statistics on the number of underage marriages.

Sultan bin Zahim, an attorney appointed by the government's Human Rights Commission to review the Onaiza case, told Al-Shorfa that "the mother of the 'Onaiza girl' withdrew the divorce petition." The reason, he said, is that "her ex-husband (the girl's father) has been haggling with her to drop the lawsuit in exchange for him dropping all the charges he had against her".

In this case the role of the commission will be "to verify the primary aim behind the marriage contract in order to ensure that such marriages, based on financial pressure or revenge between the spouses, do not take place in the future," according to Zahim. He added that "based on that, the marriage between the ‘Onaiza girl’ and the octogenarian is valid, and cannot be dissolved".

An underage girl "is not completely independent', Zahim said, "and the consent for her marriage is given by her guardian (the father). His consent should be in accordance with the girl's well-being, and not against it, as was the case with this child. It is clear that financial haggling was a major factor in the marriage in terms of relieving the guardian (the girl's father) of a debt, or it was an act of vengeance against the first wife (the girl's mother) by marrying off her daughter and thus getting rid of her."

Dr. Suhailah Zain Al Abideen, a member of the Saudi National Society for Human Rights, said that "this type of marriage goes against the international treaties signed by Saudi Arabia, but the absence of written laws is preventing the application of these family laws which aim to protect children."

Al Abideen added that it is necessary to "review fathers’ guardianship of children older than nine years, especially after it has been confirmed that all child marriages were planned by the father while the mother’s role was non-existent."

Jaafar Al Shayib, a member of the National Society, said that the marriage of underage girls is a "form of trade". He told Al-Shorfa that "these types of marriages are a violation of human rights. Our role is to sensitize people and to strive towards enacting a law that would punish all the parties involved in this crime."

Sheikh Saleh Al Humaid, president of the Supreme Judicial Council, already announced at the first Convention for Judges that "the Judicial Code which will come out soon will include a complete organisational structure of the judicial system and will address important issues, among them the marriage of underage girls, which are handled by the judicial system."

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    بنت الحسا

    2013-9-29

    The marriage of underage girls is normal. Some people may be older in age, but their minds are small, while others may be young in age, while their minds are great.

  • Holly Smith

    2011-2-17

    I Get that they are allowed to have there on beliefs and everything,but this is an exeption. These girls deserve to live there childhood freely and to be bound to no one in that way. It is just sad./And half of the marriges end in horrific rape and abuse. That story about the 12 year old girl and the 80 year old man made me throw up. No joke. I went to the bathroom and threw up. I cant believe how SICK that is. It needs to stop,woman need to have more rights and power.

  • MOIN

    2011-1-16

    Ibn Abbas reported that a girl came to the Messenger of Allah, and she reported that her father had forced her to marry without her consent. The Messenger of God gave her the choice...(between accepting the marriage or invalidating it) (Ahmad, Hadith no. 2469). another version of the report states that “the girl said: ‘Actually, I accept this marriage, but I wanted to let women know that parents have no right to force a husband on them.’” (Ibn-Majah). forced marrige is not allowed in islam.......

  • Iraqi

    2011-1-11

    According to the teachings of God the Almighty; the Islamic teachings and the traditions of the Muslim societies, the young girl should only marry after reaching adulthood, and then she has the right to marry or continue her education or work. Neither of her parents has the right to force her to marry. God is the guide.

  • مسلم

    2010-4-6

    O reasonable people, why do you exploit every incident to attack Islam, Muslims and the Islamic countries? Handling the incident in this manner is unfair, because there are similar incidents in other countries committed by people who follow different religions, including some countries that allege to be the Paradise of modernization and freedom. There are even worse crimes, such as the white slave trade in developed and democratic countries, but no one dares criticize them. Underage girls and adult women are forced to practice adultery, prostitution, and striptease to satisfy the advocates of democracy and feminists. Why don’t you accuse the Christian countries and their supporters that adopt immorality as a methodology and lifestyle? Why don’t you attack Christianity for this degrading treatment of the woman? This issue can be solved based on cultural respect, without the leveling of countless accusations against Islam by those who bear a grudge against that true religion. Misbehavior or mistakes of some people can never justify condemning a religion or creed. It is known that women reach puberty at the age of 9 in hot countries, while the girls in cold countries reach puberty at the age of 18. So, why should we raise the marriage age to be like others? Why are we required to follow others’ beliefs and laws? Why don’t they call for the opposite? The Muslims are required to follow the perverted people and sex maniacs by raising the marriage age, to spread immorality, adultery, prohibited relationships and nudity. Why are we required to satisfy our enemies who are obsessed with sex? Is it not sufficient that they have made the woman a cheap commodity and an advertising method? They use women’s pictures to promote everything, including shoes! Thus, a change in our way of thinking proves to be in order.

  • 2010-3-21

    I wish you would leave Saudi Arabia alone. Marriage has no minimum age. You allow adultery and fornication, and then you attack a normal issue in the name of freedom. May Allah disgrace you.

  • human rights activist

    2010-3-16

    to the brother who said\" Peace be upon you! Stipulating a specific age for marriage will not solve the problem. I know some girls who married at a very early age (minors) and who led a successful life. Why is Saudi Arabia always attacked? It is the only state that is still implementing Islam, and it is better than other countries. If there is a young girl who is in love with a man, why don’t they get married and avoid falling into adultery?! Where is the problem? Mothers and fathers should fully educate their daughters on matters related to marriage. Girls should also be educated on choosing suitable husbands. I do not agree on using the word (minors), because Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) married at the age of nine. I support early marriage, because it protects girls and helps them keep upright. We are living today in an age of rebellion. Marriage provides protection and abstinence for girls, especially after the emergence of TV series and movies that control the minds of young people. A sister told me a short time ago that a high school female student committed adultery and became pregnant!! Why should we delay the age of marriage when there is no convincing reason for it, and while Urfi marriage and other things prohibited by Islam are allowed?! In any case, there are young girls under thirteen years of age who are able to successfully manage their houses. You should reconsider what you said so that it will not be an argument against you on the Day of Judgment. It is a rebellious age. May Allah forgive us all! Best Regards\" what you said above is illogical and it dose not have any meaning. all you said about is just to defend your society and its bad culture. please be talk logically and give some rights to females in your county and please stop this ball sh.

  • مجرد مواطن - العتيبي

    2010-3-14

    There is no power and might except with the help of Allah. This is not marriage, but rape, a sexual frenzy and perversion committed and justified in the name of the Islamic religion. The government has to issue a strict decision to end this controversy, similar to selling slaves. There is no text specifying the marrying age, so why don't they do that and end this type of perversion in our society.

  • 2010-3-13

    This is not surprising or shameful. The Messenger himself married nine-year old Aishah when he was forty-five years old. Amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • ahmed abeid

    2010-3-10

    May Allah support them.

  • 2010-3-7

    There is no problem if a woman marries a younger man; the real problem is if she marries a ‎man who is as old as her grandfather. ‎

  • أبو آدم

    2010-3-6

    May Allah help us all. Mr. Gassr believes that all Saudis are barbarians, but he is certainly wrong, because that is not a logical way of thinking, and it can never lead to sound judgment. By the way, I am not Saudi, but I consider all Arabs and Muslims my brothers. That is not the issue. Logically speaking, whether we agree or disagree over this issue or any other issue, it is impossible for all citizens of any country to be of the same opinion. This goes against human nature. Allah the Almighty said (which means): {And if your Lord had willed, He could have made mankind one community; but they will not cease to differ. And for that He created them.} So, I would hope that all those who post comments would fear Allah in what they say or write, because the angels will record their words. Racist thoughts are worse than the issue in question (the marriage of underage girls). Allah is the guide. Of course, the marriage of underage girls is a crime, and the parents and rulers are responsible for it.

  • اخصائي نفسي السعودية

    2010-3-6

    I believe that these disasters are found not only in Saudi Arabia, but all over the Arab and Muslim world. However, Islam has nothing to do with these disasters. We have caused this backwardness, and we have caused Islam to be branded as backwards. Islam itself was never a cause of backwardness, but the backward Muslims, who unfortunately represent the majority, have depicted Islam as the cause of all problems and manifestations of backwardness. Please, I call upon all the noble Arab people to restore the dignity and grandeur that Islam conferred upon them in the past, such as in the days of Saladin and the other Muslim heroes who honored the Ummah. Stop this farce and look around you. The whole world has advanced, while you are still at tail end of the backward nations. Islam has no relationship with this farce. Is it possible that the very society which used to be the beacon, disseminating the light of Islam and of knowledge all over the world, is willing to go back to the early days of ignorance? Fie on you, O cruel father, and fie on whoever supports you... Fie on all the regimes that help you. Fie on every backward man who just wants to enslave a little girl to violate her innocence in the dark.

  • عيب والله

    2010-3-5

    Nowadays, we are reading very harsh criticism of the marriage of young girls. I feel so sad to know that girls do not have the right to an education; rather, they get into a rough relationship that extinguishes their life and degrades their humanity. We are not required to do what the Messenger (peace be upon him) did 1400 years ago when he married Aisha while she was young. Every period has its own characteristics. Rather, we should learn from the morals, kindness and mercy of the Messenger. Nowadays, our youths return to following the righteous ancestors, but they do not know how merciful Islam is between Muslims and how tolerant it is of other religions. I hope that Saudi Arabia can manage to pass this law that protects girls. I hope that the Saudi government encourages their people to learn and work.

  • معلم من السعودية

    2010-3-5

    Religious and informational awareness is the most important factor in preventing the marriage of young girls. It is more important to raise the educational level and increase incomes in society. I believe that the marriage of young girls is nothing but selling those young girls to rich people.

  • ايه دة

    2010-3-5

    I know a lady who got married and gave birth to two children. After a long life with her husband, she was divorced. He deprived her of seeing her children. To make sure that she would not see them, he gave in marriage his daughter, who is only 13 years and a few months old! Is this reasonable?! Is it reasonable that the generosity of Islam, which does not prohibit the marriage of young girls, should be exploited by such parents?!

  • hhh

    2010-3-5

    Those are irregular and rare cases. No one gives his beloved young daughter in marriage unless he is insane or he wants to get revenge on his wife!!

  • saud

    2010-3-5

    I know that women in Saudi Arabia are suffering a lot from injustice and the clinging to ignorant ideas that have taken them hundreds of years backwards. People there stick to obsolete habits and traditions, although they are blessed with very kind and friendly women. They should thank Allah for those good women who adhere to the teachings of Islam. I wish the people in Saudi Arabia would apply the sound Islamic Sharia and the Sunni approach that states that there is no difference between Arabs and foreigners, nor between white and black people, except in piety. Women should be allowed to get married to whomever they want, as long as the groom abides by Islamic teachings and good morals, and is able to provide housing and the necessary expenses.

  • fedo

    2010-3-5

    If there is no such law, there is something more exalted (i.e. a higher law), which is the Quran. We know that, in Saudi Arabia, they believe that both their constitution and the law are derived from the Quran, but this appears to be a false claim. The Quran calls for harmony between couples, first in terms of age, and second in terms of social and scientific competence,etc. Why don’t they follow the Quran???

  • اللهم عفوك ورضاك

    2010-3-2

    This is not strange for a country like Saudi Arabia, which is the best example of a country that is dominated by men who are sex addicts.

  • لالا

    2010-3-2

    I want this.

  • 2010-3-1

    There is no law identifying the minimum age for marriage in Saudi Arabia? I didn't know that!! Of course, identifying the age for marriage is necessary. A girl may reach the age of 12 or even 16 without being physiologically mature, let alone mental maturity, which a girl doesn't reach until a certain age, and which prepares her to accept the idea of a marital union, family and responsibility.

  • lمتابع

    2010-2-28

    May Allah help them!

  • رااائد

    2010-2-26

    Indeed, this is terrible, but what can we do?

  • GASSR

    2010-2-26

    Personally, I believe that the Saudi people are barbarians, because they give precedence to materialistic affairs over everything else. They believe that other people are their slaves, forgetting that other Arab peoples are better than they are. In this respect, there is no better evidence than the Kafeel system, which enslaves the workers.

  • 2010-2-25

    Peace be upon you! Stipulating a specific age for marriage will not solve the problem. I know some girls who married at a very early age (minors) and who led a successful life. Why is Saudi Arabia always attacked? It is the only state that is still implementing Islam, and it is better than other countries. If there is a young girl who is in love with a man, why don’t they get married and avoid falling into adultery?! Where is the problem? Mothers and fathers should fully educate their daughters on matters related to marriage. Girls should also be educated on choosing suitable husbands. I do not agree on using the word (minors), because Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) married at the age of nine. I support early marriage, because it protects girls and helps them keep upright. We are living today in an age of rebellion. Marriage provides protection and abstinence for girls, especially after the emergence of TV series and movies that control the minds of young people. A sister told me a short time ago that a high school female student committed adultery and became pregnant!! Why should we delay the age of marriage when there is no convincing reason for it, and while Urfi marriage and other things prohibited by Islam are allowed?! In any case, there are young girls under thirteen years of age who are able to successfully manage their houses. You should reconsider what you said so that it will not be an argument against you on the Day of Judgment. It is a rebellious age. May Allah forgive us all! Best Regards

  • محمد البشير

    2010-2-25

    In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. In my opinion, this is her parent’s mistake. A girl her age should leave the house only to go to school. That is all I can say.

  • لينا

    2010-2-23

    Peace be upon you. No comment, as long as there are some people who are working towards solving this detrimental situation in Saudi Arabia. It has become very easy for anyone to authorize a marriage contract before any judge. This may happen through bribery or manipulation to persuade the judge to authorize the contract. However, I do not believe that this can justify the authorization of the contract by any judge, because we should have some understanding and logic. These girls are underage and are not ready for marriage, whether physically, psychologically or socially. As for those who marry those underage girls, whether young or old, why do they marry them? I believe that they do so for financial or sexual reasons. However, these reasons are unacceptable, and personal interests should not be served at the expense of the underage girls. Why does an eighty-year-old man need to marry? He has no strength to even walk! Does he want to have his picture taken with the bride, or to make her a pillow to lean upon?!! The final solution requires the following steps: 1- There should be a final ban on marriage to girls under the age of 16, not 15, with severe punishments for the judge and the father who violate this ban; 2- Encouraging the girls to report any marriage of an underage boy or girl to the concerned authorities; 3- Publishing posters and booklets about the danger of marriage for underage girls in the schools; and 4- The headmasters and teachers must educate students about the danger of marriage for underage girls, both in theory and in practice. May you be safe.

  • ibrahim

    2010-2-19

    Return back to Islam

  • 2010-2-17

    Saudi and what do you know about Saudi Arabia; did they abolish slavery there yet?

  • ساسا

    2010-2-16

    This is really sad and depressing. Where are the stupid parents from this and what is the role of the commission in this case :@

  • متابع

    2010-2-16

    There are many cultural issues in need of readjustments in the minds of many people. The problem is that materialism is expanding while intellectual and social things are contracting… The story of the young bride is just a side of the issue and there are many larger issues to consider… In any case, some of these farces must be stopped and the law needs to be reworded so that things can regain some balance.

  • sameergalb

    2010-2-14

    Sheikh Saleh Al Humaid, president of the Supreme Judicial Council, already announced at the first Convention for Judges that "the Judicial Code which will come out soon will include a complete organisational structure of the judicial system and will address important issues, among them the marriage of underage girls, which are handled by the judicial system."