According to Saudi Gazette, a special committee on underage marriages has submitted its proposals to the higher authorities for controlling marriages of girls below the age of 18 years.

Following several cases of underage marriage made headlines in local and international media, Saudi authorities set up the experts committee to study the issue and propose regulations to be put in place to control the phenomenon.

The committee proposed that the marriage contract for anyone below the age of 18 must be signed and sanctified in a court of law and not through marriage officiators.

It said the Ministry of Health must not issue medical certificates to a minor for the purposes of marriage without a court order.

When a court receives a request to sanctify marriage of a minor, the judge must make sure that the request is submitted by the future bride or her legal guardian with her consent. The judge must communicate with the girl directly to make sure of her consent. The judge then will hear out the mother of the bride and make sure the marriage will not jeopardize her life in any way.

The judge will then consult experts in women and children›s health to make sure that the would-be bride is physically fit and ready to for marriage.

Minor girls getting married will also undergo a Ministry of Justice program to prepare them on how to navigate into married life.

The same regulations apply to Saudi men who marry non-Saudi women inside the Kingdom.

The committee called on the Ministry of Labor and Social Development to update its online marriage service including new regulations. It also asked the Ministry of Culture and Information to use the media outlets, traditional as well as new media, to raise public awareness about the negative social and psychological effects of early marriage.

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs should encourage imams to talk about the issue in Friday sermons and enlighten parents about the importance of empowering their daughters and letting them understand that the decision of marriage is within their own hands, the committee said.