10/07/2010, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA
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Saudi human rights groups against the marriage between a child bride and a 50-year-old man

The country’s human rights commission reiterates the need for a minimum age for marriage. The Shura Council, the kingdom’s consultative assembly, tells its committee dealing with social affairs, family and youth to study the issue and file a report to the council for discussion.

Riyadh (AsiaNews) – Saudi human rights groups stepped up their fight against child brides. Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Commission (HRC) announced that it intends to organise a forum on child marriages with relevant government departments. Its goal is to have a law in place that would set a minimum age for marriage.

The initiative comes a few days after Saudi daily Al-Watan reported the marriage between a 13-year-old girl and a 50-year-old man. The child studied at a Qur'anic school in Najran before her father married her off to a retired man despite opposition from her grandfather and other members of the family.

The child's grandfather expressed his disgust over his son, saying that no one in his family is talking to him and they all feel sorry for the child, who he says was clearly brainwashed. By contrast, the father claims that objections from other relatives were simply due to a family dispute.

The marriage contractor, Sheikh Saad Al-Yami, told the media that the girl had accepted the marriage. However, HRC President Bandar Al-Iban called it a "clear violation of this child's rights and humanity at a time when she needs to enjoy the care of her family, her education and her normal life as a child".

The issue of child brides has become a major controversy in Saudi Arabia, pitting supporters of a ban against those who defend it, citing the behaviour of Muhammad himself.

At the beginning of the year, the HRC set up a committee to look into the issue. It has also called on official bodies to set a minimum age of marriage based on studies presented by the childhood committee at the Ministry of Health.

It has also tried to unite society against child marriages, even individual cases, commending the role of the media in bringing into the public domain reports of violation of children's rights.

The issue of child marriages came up again when the Shura Council called on its committee dealing with social affairs, family and youth to study the issue and submit a report to the council for discussion.

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