Saudi Arabia: Saudi Human Rights Commission Seeks End to Child Marriages

Arab News
The Saudi Human Rights Commission (HRC) has called on government agencies to take necessary steps to end the practice of child marriages by adopting a clear and unambiguous position on such weddings.
The condemnation comes in the wake of several cases across the Kingdom in which young girls have been married to elderly men, mainly for monetary reasons such as the settlement of debts or to receive generous dowries.
“Such marriages violate human rights by depriving a girl of her childhood,” said Turki Al-Sudairy, president of the Human Rights Commission. He added that such weddings are prohibited by a number of international conventions and by reputed global organizations concerned with children’s rights.

“Child marriages should be considered to be the same as forced marriages since valid consent has not been obtained from the bride who is also under aged,” Al-Sudairy said, adding that this could lead to severe health complications, since the girl is not psychologically, physically and sexually mature to enter wedlock.

“Young girls are not ready for the responsibilities that come with being a wife, a sexual partner and a mother. Early marriage has a negative impact on their emotional well-being and personal development,” he added.

The president also called for measures to raise awareness on the adverse effects of early marriages among Saudis. “Concerned government and non-governmental organizations should provide adequate security to innocent girls who are driven into such marriages,” he said.

Dr. Ayman Abu Laban, UNICEF representative in the Gulf, said his organization strongly discourages child marriages, which inflict serious psychological and physical risks on young girls.

“We believe that a girl should only marry after she has achieved all the development stages of her childhood, which, according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, is the age of 18,” he stressed.

In an opinion article in Arab News on Saturday, Nourah Al-Khereiji, a Saudi columnist, also condemned the issue and requested the public to inform the police if a father insists on marrying his daughter to an elderly man. “The officials who write marriage contracts should alert the HRC to such practices so that they step in to stop it in time. It would be good if we decide a certain age for marriage.”

Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, has also warned parents against marrying their young daughters to elderly men.

26 August 2008

Source: Arab News