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Evaluation of setting a legal minimum age of marriage as a method of preventing zawaj al-gaserat in Saudi Arabia

Al Hakami, Husain (2014) Evaluation of setting a legal minimum age of marriage as a method of preventing zawaj al-gaserat in Saudi Arabia. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

This study evaluates and explores the concept of child marriage, known as zawaj al-gaserat, in Saudi Arabia. There is currently much debate taking place in Saudi Arabia about whether there is a need to set a legal minimum age of marriage in order to prevent cases of child marriage from taking place, with many of those who are against this legal precedent justifying their opposition on religious grounds. Despite the increasing public and political focus on this issue there are no available figures that show the prevalence of either forced, child, or early marriage in Saudi Arabia so it is unclear just how much of a phenomenon it is within that society. A detailed literature review was undertaken to gain an understanding of this issue in order to situate the issue in its historical, political, social and religious context. This was complemented by an empirical qualitative-research methodological approach; semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with thirty-seven participants in Saudi Arabia, who comprised various professionals and members of the public, and these were analysed using thematic and discourse analysis. The findings suggest that setting a legal minimum age of marriage is one means that may help prevent zawaj al-gaserat. However, other issues also emerged, with participants highlighting that zawaj al-gaserat between an older man and an adolescent female can give rise to social, psychological and medical issues for the girls, their families and society as a whole. One key issue arising from the research was that the term gaser, قاصر , which means here one who has not reached puberty, is misunderstood by many Saudi Arabians and Arabs.

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