Saudi Arabia issued a de facto ban on child marriages on Monday, according to news reports. Arabian Business reports that the kingdom’s Justice Minister Dr Walid bin Mohammed Al-Samaani has instructed all courts and marriage officials to not permit any marriage involving those under the age of 18.
The decision came after an amendment to the kingdom’s Child Protection Law had been passed by the Shoura Council in January this year. This sought to ban child marriages under 15 entirely and establish new rules around those between 16-18 years old. A member of the Shoura Council, Latifa Al Shaalan expressed that this is a “good step forward” regardless of the fact that it was not easy to pass this decision.
Child marriages have long been something that rights groups have actively tried to end stating that it is a form of violence against children. UNICEF South Asia reports that South Asia has the highest rates of child marriages in the world, with almost 45 % of women expressing that they were married before the age of 18. UNICEF further reported that there are 39,000 child marriages that occur daily.
StepFeed noted that there’s still one loophole in Saudi Arabia’s decision to ban child marriages. The decision states that each marriage case will be deliberated by judges to determine if the person being married under the age of 18 will be harmed or not if they allow that marriage to exist. This can be argued to be a problematic condition within the law as most people believe people under the age of 18 are still too young to be married, regardless of whether they will be harmed by that future marriage or not.
In addition, users have been voicing their opinions on the decision on Twitter and are pointing out that other countries should follow this example and ban the practice in their countries as well.