Child Bride Married to Elderly Man Escapes After Wedding

An elderly man above 90 years old has married a 15-year-old girl in Jizan, southern Saudi Arabia, last week, according to a report published in al-Hayat. Relatives told the paper the girl was too frightened that on her wedding night she locked her husband out of the bedroom before leaving to her parents’ house two days later.

The elderly husband, who said he has paid SR 65,000 as dowery to marry the teenage girl, told al-Hayat that he plans to go to the court to force her parents to either return the girl or the dowery.

“Concerned authorities must intervene immediately to save the girl from this disaster,” said Suhaila Zain al-Abdin, member of the National Society for Human Rights, holding the parents responsible for marrying their teenage daughter to a man old enough to be her great grandfather. Zain al-Abdin urged the government to set the minimum age for marriage at 18 to prevent such cases from being repeated.

Saudi Arabia, a patriarchal society that applies a strict interpretation Islam, currently has no minimum legal age for marriage. Fathers have guardianship over their daughters, giving them control over who they can marry and when. But following international criticism of cases of child brides in recent years, Saudi officials said last year that they are working on new regulations to set a minimum age for marriage.

“The ministry has adopted a clear stance on underage marriages and the issue was raised to the regulators,” Mohammed al-Babetein, head of the Justice Ministry’s marriages department, told daily al-Madina last April. “It supports setting unified regulations to deal with such practices, which will ensure the safety of young girls.”

However, no regulations have been announced yet.