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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saudi Arabia law to simplify marriage rules



JEDDAH: The Shoura Council is currently considering a new draft law to ease marriages of Saudis to non-Saudis in part to help reduce the numbers of older, unmarried Saudi women.
“This step is aimed at reducing spinsterhood among Saudi women, and also at correcting other negative aspects, including the growing number of Saudi children abroad,” said Shoura member Talal Bakri, chairman of the Social, Family and Youth Affairs Committee.
According to recent unofficial studies, there are now about 1.5 million single women in the Kingdom which might reach four million by the year 2015. A “spinster” in Saudi Arabia is defined as a woman who remains single beyond the age of 32. The study indicated that the main causes of older single women were unemployment, shortages in affordable accommodation and social traditions that favor marriage at a younger age.
“There are clear indications that both genders want inter-marriages to be allowed,” said Bakri.
Loosening the restrictions, especially on Saudi women, is also aimed at reducing the phenomenon of Saudi men traveling abroad to marry and having children whose citizenship status is jeopardized. Some Arab countries have strict citizenship rules that can block children of foreign men from automatically gaining citizenship in the country of their birth since this citizenship is defined through paternal lines. By loosening restrictions on such marriages, these children would have an easier time being defined as Saudi citizens because the marriage would be recognized more easily by the Saudi government.
Under current Saudi rules, foreign men are not allowed to marry Saudi women unless under exceptional circumstances that begin with submitting to a lengthy and complicated bureaucratic process that often ends with denial of petition. Saudi men must be at least 50 years of age or sick and lacking a caregiver for their marriages to foreign women to be officially recognized.
Bakri attributed the increasing rate of spinsterhood to the population explosion. “This has resulted in an increase in population and hence a growing number of single women,” he said.
Bakri also said shifting values of Saudi women away from religiously minded, physically strong men toward wealthy men has also caused a rise in older, single Saudi women.  “Under the currently rising costs of living, low income and increasing marriage expenses, young men are unable to get married,” he added.
Another issue is the increase in women in the workplace and fathers who are reluctant to grant them permission to marry out of concern of losing the household income.
The director of personal rights at the Ministry of Interior, Abdul Rahman Al-Makhdoub, said very few permits are granted by the ministry to Saudi men wishing to marry foreign women.
“We hardly process 10 percent of the total number of applications we receive,” he said.

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