Saudi Arabia: Saudi Human Rights Commission to Review Child Bride Case
Wednesday, February 17, 2010 1:25 PM

16 February 2010 

The state-run human rights commission in Saudi Arabia has begun investigating a case of a girl whose mother had previously filed for her divorce from an 80-year old man. The girl, who is reported to be 12 years old, was married to her father’s elderly cousin for bridal money of 85,000 riyals ($23,000). Although Saudi Arabia is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child, which considers those under 18 as children, it has no minimum legal age for marriage. Fathers are granted full guardianship over their daughters and choose whom and when the daughters must marry.

The girl’s mother had filed for divorce on her daughter’s behalf but withdrew before the second court hearing in early February. The Saudi Human Rights Commission took over the case to investigate the mother’s reasons for withdrawal, as well as the age of the girl and her husband, before taking any further action.

This is the first time the commission has intervened in a case of child marriage, which had previously been seen as a private family matter and thus outside of the commission’s sphere of influence. Human rights activists see this as a positive step towards the introduction of a minimum legal age for marriage.

“This case is an investment in order to push for a law,” said Wajiha al-Huweider, a Saudi rights activist. “We need to affect public opinion and I believe that Saudi Arabia will issue a law preventing child marriages soon.” (Reuters)

Compiled from: Asma Alsharif, Saudi Rights Panel Take Up Child Bride Case,” Reuters (8 February 2010).