Saudi Arabia Just Banned child Marriage

Child marriage is considered a violation of human rights across the globe. For decades, lawmakers have been attempting to end what is considered child abuse. The formal marriage or informal union is specified by several global organizations, such as UNICEF, for anyone under the age of 18. However, many countries allow marriage at a much younger ages, especially for girls.

Estonia now has the lowest marriage age in Europe with teenagers as young as 15 getting married with parental approval. According to UNICEF, the Middle East and North Africa is home to nearly 40 million child brides. In recent years, there have been over 700,000 child brides across the region; where one in every five young women get married before the age of 18.

The prevalence of child marriage varies within the region, from one in three in Sudan and Yemen to 1 in 50 in Tunisia.

UNICEF profile of child marriage

In Egypt, the current legal marriage age is 18. Just last month, Egyptian MP member, Souad El-Masry, suggested raising the legal age for marriage in Egypt to 21. This came after an underage couple made headlines for getting engaged at the age of 15 in Desouk governorate.

It looks like Saudi Arabia is following Egypt’s lead and plans on ending child marriage. According to a statement issued by the Kingdom’s Shoura Council on its website, child marriage is prohibited for girls and boys under the age of 15, and those under 18 will need approval from a specialized court. Shoura Council Member Latifa Al-Shaalan soon tweeted that the decision is a step forward, yet was hard to reach. The ruling received the support of two thirds of the council.

“There were no marriage limitations before, so for this to be passed and prohibit marriage for a child under 15 is a huge accomplishment because you will be protecting young boys and girls,” Council Member Lina Almaeena told the Thomson Reuters Foundation over the phone.

Child marriage is deemed unsafe for young girls according to studies, it increases the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer, malaria, death during childbirth, and obstetric fistulas. Young girls offspring are at increased risk for premature birth and death.

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