Child marriages are unfortunately a common event in Saudi Arabia, as one 15 year old girl found out earlier this month. She was married to a 70 year old Saudi Arabian man, who paid a dowry of roughly $17,500 – $20,000. As many would expect, the young child was terrified, and on her wedding night she locked herself in a room in order to keep her “husband” away from her. Due to this lack of consummation, the 70 year old man wanted his money back, claiming he was fooled by the girl’s family. A divorce has since been granted, and the two are no longer married.
However, just because the two are now divorced does not solve the real issue here – should Saudi Arabia do more to prevent child marriages from happening in the first place? As of now, in Saudi Arabia there is no legal minimum age for marriage. Therefore, while this child marriage is outrageous and disturbing here in the United States, it is not uncommon in Saudi Arabia. More interesting though is that while many states in America have the minimum age at around 16 or wiht parental consent – only one year higher than the child in this case –, in Kansas 15 year olds can get married by “a district court judge who thinks that getting married at such a young age would be in that individual’s best interest.”
Should Saudi Arabia enact a law setting a minimum age for marriage? Would this law be enforced? Is this case an instance of a tradition gone awry, or is this more akin to child prostitution or trafficking? What about the outlier that is Kansas – does the fact that a judge has to approve the child marriage make it less outrageous, or should Kansas re-evaluate its law on this matter as well?