Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women


Saudi Arabia

 7 Sep 2000

 7 Sep 2000




Article 16  - CEDAW

1. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations and in particular shall ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women:

(a) The same right to enter into marriage;

(b) The same right freely to choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent;

(c) The same rights and responsibilities during marriage and at its dissolution;





Text - UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Article 1

For the purposes of the present Convention, a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.






Convention on the Rights of the Child - Ratification


Saudi Arabia


26 Jan 1996 a





Statement by UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman on Saudi Arabia Child Marriage Annulment Court Denial

NEW YORK, 13 April 2009 - UNICEF is deeply concerned by reports that Saudi Arabian tribunals have decided not to annul the marriage of an eight-year-old girl. Irrespective of circumstances or the legal framework, the marriage of a child is a violation of that child’s rights.

The right to free and full consent to marriage is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Consent cannot be free and full when either party to a marriage is too young to make an informed decision.

UNICEF joins many in voicing concern that child marriage contravenes accepted international standards of human rights. It can also have a long term detrimental effect on the child’s emotional, physical and psychological welfare.


----- Original Message -----

From: WUNRN ListServe

To: WUNRN ListServe

Sent: Wednesday, December 24, 2008 6:22 PM

Subject: Saudi Arabia - Girl 8 Married to 58-Year-Old Man - Denied Divorce Till Puberty







The Guardian, 23 December 2008

Ian Black, Middle East Editor


Saudi Girl, Age 8, Married to 58-Year-Old Man Is Denied Divorce

An eight-year old Saudi Arabian girl who was married off by her father to a 58-year-old man has been told she cannot divorce her husband until she reaches puberty.

Lawyer Abdu Jtili said the divorce petition was filed by the unnamed girl's divorced mother in August after the marriage contract was signed by her father and the groom. "The judge has dismissed the plea because she [the mother] does not have the right to file, and ordered that the plea should be filed by the girl herself when she reaches puberty," lawyer Abdullah Jtili told the AFP news agency.

The case was handled by a court in Qasim province, north of the Saudi capital Riyadh. The girl does not know she is married, said Jtili, adding that he will appeal.

In many child marriages, girls are given away to older men in return for dowries or following the custom by which a father promises his daughters and sons to marriage while still children. But the issue is complicated by different interpretations of sharia law and a lack of legal certainty.

"There is confusion in Saudi Arabia over the fundamental question of what constitutes adulthood," said Clarisa Bencomo of Human Rights Watch. "There is also vast judicial discretion." The case appears to fit a pattern of divorced fathers using their children to take revenge against their ex-wives. Mothers usually only have custody while the children are young.

Relatives said the marriage had not been consummated and that the girl was still living with her mother. They said that the father had set a verbal condition by which the marriage was not to be consummated until the girl turns 18 - although it was unclear how this could be enforced. The father agreed to marry off his daughter for a dowry of 30,000 riyals (£5,400) as he was facing financial problems.

Bencomo dismissed the idea that the girl would be able to file for divorce once she reached puberty since there was no standard definition of this. In addition, Saudi judges often insist that even adult women speak to them through a male guardian or lawyer.

No figures are available for the number of arranged marriages involving pre-adolescents in Saudi Arabia, where the strictly conservative Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam holds sway and polygamy is common. But human rights groups say they are aware of many such cases.

Senior clerics, including Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al-Sheikh, the kingdom's grand mufti, have denounced child marriage. But it is still prevalent in conservative areas. The Shura council recently defined adulthood as starting at age 18 but objections prevented it from being ratified as required by the council of ministers.

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