Fatim: Saudi Arabia - Equality Now


Fatima - Saudi Arabia

Child marriage is prevalent in Saudi Arabia, as the country has no laws against it, and because of the commonly-accepted practice of male guardianship over women. Under this practice, a woman’s closest male relative makes all decisions for her for her whole life - including whom she will marry. With no minimum age of marriage law and commonly-practiced male guardianship, Saudi girls can be forced into marriage at any age.

2010: Fatima is sold into marriage

Equality Now becomes involved in the case of 12-year old Fatima, a Saudi girl whose father sold her in marriage to a 50-year old man who already has a wife and ten children, most of whom were older than Fatima. Her father sold her for 40,000 Saudi Riyals (approximately US$ 10,665), which he used to buy himself a car. 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. We took on this case as part of our campaign to ban child marriage in Saudi Arabia.

2011: Fatima's family tries to help her

While at home with her family, Fatima refuses to go back to her husband. Her husband refuses to grant her a divorce unless he is paid a large amount of money. We intervene to support Fatima’s paternal uncle, who wants to help his niece get a divorce.

2012: Fatima is granted a divorce

Fatima gets her divorce papers without having to pay back the dowry.

2013: Saudi Arabia introduces 16 as the minimum age of marriage

Fatima’s divorce is finalized after a required 90-day waiting period. Later that same year, the Saudi Ministry of Justice proposes to introduce new regulations setting 16 as the minimum age of marriage for girls. While we welcome this first step in fulfilling the government’s international human rights obligations, we call on the Saudi government to implement this regulation as soon as possible and to put in place more regulations to protect girls from child marriage - including by raising the age of marriage to the international best standard of 18.


We continue to work with partners to call on the King to issue an edict to establish 18 years as a minimum age of marriage. We also join partners in calling for the system of male guardianship over women to be abolished so that Saudi women have the right to enter into marriages of their choice.


Will Saudi Arabia end child marriage? (CNN)
Laws Fail to Stop Child Marriage (Al Jazeera America)