Take Action to End Early Marriage in Saudi Arabia

UPDATE 20 MARCH 2013: The judge heard Fatima’s case earlier than expected and in November 2012, issued divorce papers without requiring repayment of the dower. After a required 90-day waiting period, Fatima’s divorce was finalized on 10 February. We will continue to work with Saudi activists to get a ban on child marriage in Saudi Arabia.


Equality Now has been informed of several cases of Saudi girls being married off at the behest of their male guardians. The most recent case concerns 12-year-old Fatima from Najran who was married on 5 October 2010 to a 50 year old man who already has a wife and ten children, most much older than Fatima. Her father Ali, who is unemployed and addicted to drugs, sold her in marriage for a sum of 40,000 Saudi Riyals (approximately US$ 10,665), which he used to buy himself a car. Reportedly, Fatima’s husband bought her a PlayStation as a wedding gift. Fatima, who has not yet fully reached puberty, now lives with her husband and his family. According to her paternal uncle Mohamed, Fatima’s husband has subjected her to sexual relations. Fatima’s paternal grandfather and uncle were strongly opposed to the marriage but could not prevent it because Fatima’s father, as her male guardian, has the right under Saudi law to marry her off at any age to whomever he pleases. Fatima’s grandfather and uncle are frustrated that the Saudi legal system recognizes only the right of the father and not the right and interest of the child. They are also concerned that Fatima’s two younger sisters Noura, age 9, and Basma, age 7, may be subjected to a similar fate.

Equality Now calls upon the King of Saudi Arabia asking him to issue an edict banning child marriages by establishing 18 years as a minimum age of marriage and providing punishments for those who enter into or facilitate such unions.  In addition Equality Now calls upon him to ensure that the system of male guardianship over women is abolished so that Saudi women secure the right, among other things, to enter into marriages of their choice. 

I am writing to express my deep concern about the issue of child marriage in Saudi Arabia and the extremely negative impact of such marriage on girls. A recent case is that of 12-year-old Fatima from Najran who was married by her father to a 50-year-old man with a wife and ten children in exchange for 40,000 Saudi Riyals which her father used to buy a car. Fatima’s paternal grandfather and uncle were opposed to the marriage but could not prevent it because, as her male guardian, her father Ali had the right under Saudi law to marry her off at whatever age to whomever he pleased. They fear that Fatima’s two younger sisters will be subjected to a similar fate.

Child marriages violate the human rights of girls by excluding them from decisions regarding the timing of marriage and choice of spouse. International organizations such as the World Health Organization, UNICEF and UNFPA have underscored the negative physical, emotional, psychological, intellectual and sexual implications of child marriage on girls. Fatima’s marriage will, among other things, deprive her of an education and severely jeopardize her right to mental, emotional and physical well-being.

I urge you to issue an edict banning child marriages by establishing 18 years as the minimum age of marriage, and providing punishments for those who enter into or facilitate such unions. I also urge you to take urgent action to annul the marriages of child brides whose marriage contracts have been executed but who have yet to be handed over to their husbands, and to ensure that child brides already living with their husbands are given a real choice to annul their marriages. Please ensure that the Saudi legal and judicial system reflect your government’s stated claim before international bodies that women are not subject to male guardianship, but rather have the right, among other things, to enter into marriages of their choice. In this respect, I urge you to support the establishment of a codified personal status law to guarantee the rights of women in marriage and divorce, ensuring that such a law is based upon principles of equality and non-discrimination.

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690 total signers.

This petition will be delivered to the government of Saudi Arabia.
Learn more about the campaign here:
http://www.equalitynow.org/take_action/adolescent_girls_action313