Saudi Arabia: End child marriage and male guardianship over women
Equality Now has just issued Women’s Action Update 31.5 Saudi Arabia: End child marriage and male guardianship over women. In 2010, Equality Now took on the case of 12-year-old Fatima of Saudi Arabia, who had been sold in marriage to a 50 year old man who already had a wife and ten children. As her male guardian, Fatima’s father had the sole right under Saudi law to marry her off at any age to whomever he pleased. In a remarkable challenge to societal norms, however, Fatima escaped to her family home six months after the marriage, refusing to return to her husband and demanding a divorce. With the help of her uncle and support from Equality Now, she was finally granted a divorce in February 2013. Though Fatima showed great personal strength and determination, despite her young age, she is now suffering from psychological and emotional distress as she feels ashamed of her situation; she no longer wants to pursue her education, believing that she no longer has options in society as a child ‘divorcee.’
Fatima’s experience highlights the plight and repercussions of millions of girls around the world who are married as children. Equality Now and our partners therefore welcomed the 8 April 2013 proposal by the Saudi Ministry of Justice to introduce new regulations on the marriage of girls. The draft regulations would set 16 as the minimum age of marriage and would propose preconditions to any marriage below the age of 16.
Please join us in calling on Saudi authorities to adopt and implement the proposed regulations without delay. Urge them to provide safeguards to ensure that girls and women have a real choice in the timing of marriage and selection of a spouse by:
Adopting and implementing the proposed regulations to set a minimum age of marriage
Going a step further to meet the international recommended standard by raising the suggested minimum marriage age to 18 years old
Ending the male guardianship system to remove discrimination against women and girls, including in their access to education, employment, and justice and the ability to make their own life choices