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Saudi scholars say ‘forced marriages are against Islam’

In Saudi Arabia, a woman forced into marriage by her guardian can go to court and revoke the marriage contract

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Forced marriages are entirely against Islamic teachings, scholars told Makkah daily on Tuesday.

The scholars said the United Nations has classified these types of unions to be a serious violation of human rights.

Mohammed al-Suhali, director of the Islamic studies center at Umm Al-Qura university and member of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), said such marriages are rejected both religiously and socially.

"This type of marriage has nothing to do with the religion and is nothing more than a social norm," he said.

Al-Suhali said forced marriages have become a phenomenon in some conservative societies that do not give any value to the opinions of the would-be husband or wife.

He said: “There is no religious text that permits forced marriages. It is only considered permitted by people with personal interests or hidden agenda.”

Under the Saudi system, any woman who is forced by her male guardian to marry against her wishes can go to the court to revoke the marriage contract.

The system said the role of the guardian was only to give advice, not force their women to marry against their free will.

Al-Suhali called for spreading awareness among society against these types of marriages. He said imams could use their Friday sermons to talk about forced marriages. "Parents are guardians to their daughters, not their masters," he said.

Marriage official Mohammed al-Otaibi said before writing the contract officials should ask the women if they had consented to the marriage. "The woman should give her consent clearly to the marriage official, otherwise he should not document the marriage contract," he said.

Al-Otaibi said any marriage official who writes the contract without hearing the clear consent of the bride should be punished.

He said some parents would not allow the marriage officials to meet with their girls to listen to their consent.

"The officials should insist on personally meeting with the bride and listen to her consent," he said.

Al-Otaibi, however, described this type of marriage to be correct and binding if it happens.

"However, any woman can go to the court and have her marriage contract revoked," he said.

Dr. Sameera Al-Ghamdi, a psychological consultant, warned against the adverse consequences of forced marriages.

"If the married couple are not in agreement their life together may not last for long," she said.

She warned that if a woman might develop many psychological illnesses including depression if forced to marry against her will. "She may put an end to her own life by committing suicide," she said.

She said some parents force their daughters into marriages for financial reasons without carefully considering the adverse results.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette.