(MENAFN - Arab News) Proposed guidelines from the Ministry of Interior could make it tougher for girls below 16 to get married.
Fahd Al-Bakran, a spokesman for the ministry, said the strict recommendations were submitted to the Council of of Senior Islamic Scholars.
The ministry recommends that guardians of girls under 16 must apply to a judge in a special court to obtain a waiver to marry them off.
In addition, a female obstetrician/gynecologist, a psychiatrist and social worker must submit a signed medical report.
The Interior Ministry also recommends that evidence be given that the girl is mentally and physically mature. The girl also must consent to the marriage and have permission from her mother. Only the judge can grant the waiver to marry.
"There are no more than six cases (of teenage girls marriage requests)," Al-Bakran said. "The Ministry of Justice, however, believes that even with the limited number of the cases, the current situation is disturbing."
Mona Al-Munajjed, a sociologist and an adviser on women and gender issues, supports the Ministry of Justice's efforts to limit child marriages because it's a healthy step that will positively affect Saudi society.
"Experts refer to these girls as child brides precisely because they are still children and they have not developed fully in their physical, emotional and psychological capacities," Al-Munajjed said. "Marriage is a serious endeavor that entails many responsibilities that these children still do not fully comprehend, including relations with an older husband, giving birth and raising children."
Wafal Al-Shammari, a social worker at the Ministry of Social Affairs, said young girls are not ready for marriage.
"The marriage of girls under 16 is an injustice to girls and has severe and far-reaching negative consequences to society," Al-Shammari said.
"Girls below 19 have still not reached maturity in terms of completing their mental and emotional growth. Underage girls are not prepared to assume the burdens and huge responsibilities of marriage and this can lead to divorce, illiteracy, premature pregnancy and the disruption of the family unit, among many other problems."