A panel within Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council has asked for greater restrictions on marriage for girls under the age of 18.
The council began deliberations on the Committee of Islamic and Judiciary Affairs report on Monday.
This recommended that marriage of girls under 18 could not be valid without the approval of the family affairs court.
This would require the fulfilment of all necessary conditions in the eyes of a judge.
The committee also requested that pre-marital health screening for girls only be carried out by the Ministry of Health under the request of a competent court and urged the ministries of culture and Islamic affairs to spread awareness of the harmful effects of marriage on minors.
Shoura Council member Dr Eqbal Darandari told Arab News that some members disagreed with the committee’s decision “because they believed it meant we condone underage marriage”.
Others suggested that only those between the ages of 16 and 18 can transfer their cases to a judge, and those below 16 cannot get married. Some members demanded this be applied to underage boys, as well,” she added.
She said she was among those that believed there needed to be an age limit for marriage, but 16 – as is legal in other countries – could be appropriate.
“I don’t believe a pre-marital test is enough. In my opinion, I think we need a female committee — made of a doctor, lawyer, psychologist and social worker — that studies the girl’s state in order to assess whether or not she can get married.”
Darandari argued marriage before the age of 16 could lead to severe physical and psychology damage.
“I believe there should be sanctions to those who do not adhere to that, and in the case of a marriage during that delicate age, a girl’s right to demand a divorce if things don’t work out should be guaranteed,” she added, according to the publication.
Shoura members previously submitted a recommendation to the country’s Justice Ministry in July to ban to ban the marriage of girls below the age of 15.