Saudi Arabia Moves to Regulate Child Marriages

It’s an almost weekly occurrence. Saudi citizens sit down for their morning coffee or tea, pharm open the newspaper and read a story, psychiatrist sometimes highly censored, drugs about a child marriage. Sometimes the story is of an elderly man who married a pre-teen girl. Sometimes the story is about a teenage girl raped on the night of her wedding by a husband a few decades older than her. Sometimes the story is about a girl who ran away on her wedding night.

Saudi Arabia is inundated with news about child marriage, particularly in the international media.

But while the government of King Abdullah is believed to support curbing the practice, his regime has yet to make significant efforts to challenge the country’s robust religious establishment on the issue.

That may have changed earlier this month when Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry announced the distribution of new marriage contracts which require the bride’s age to be recorded. While there has been no change to the law itself, which allows for young girls to be married off by their families, the move has been hailed by some Saudi women’s rights activists as a small but important step in the right direction and disparaged by others as meaningless lip service.

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