Understanding Saudi Arabia Marriage Rules

8 Apr 2024·15 min read
Understanding Saudi Arabia Marriage Rules

Saudi Arabia has clear marriage rules that everyone must follow. These laws are based on the country's culture and religion. They shape how people get married in Saudi Arabia.

The marriage laws are rooted in Islam and are outlined in the Personal Status Law from March 8, 2022. This law explains what's needed for marriage. It also covers the rights and duties of those who are married.

If you want to get married in Saudi Arabia, it's important to know these rules. This ensures your marriage is smooth and legally recognized, whether you're a local or from abroad.

Key Takeaways:

  • Saudi Arabia has well-defined marriage rules and regulations.
  • The marriage laws are based on Islamic principles and are regulated under the Personal Status Law.
  • Understanding the marriage rules is essential for a legally recognized union.

The Male Guardianship System in Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, the Personal Status Law supports the male guardianship system. This greatly affects women's rights and continues gender discrimination. Under this system, a woman needs a man's permission to marry, which limits her independence and choice. The law also demands that women obey their husbands, reducing their say in family issues.

This guardianship system is a deep part of Saudi culture. It is backed by law and social norms. It treats women as if they are children, stripping them of the ability to make choices for themselves. Such restrictions not only limit personal freedom but also deny women equality before the law.

The guardianship system gives male relatives control over women's lives. This control covers marriage, education, jobs, travel, and health care. It enforces gender inequality, placing women below men. This cycle of discrimination stalls progress toward gender equality in Saudi Arabia.

"The male guardianship system is a prime example of the gender discrimination embedded in Saudi Arabia's family law. It violates women's rights, restricts their freedom, and reinforces unequal power dynamics between men and women."


Many have criticized the male guardianship system worldwide. They argue it goes against equality and non-discrimination, which are key in international human rights. This ongoing issue shows the obstacles women face in achieving gender equality. It stresses the urgent need for legal changes in Saudi Arabia.

There have been slight reforms in Saudi Arabia to fight gender discrimination. These changes aim to give women more freedom and reduce male control. Yet, getting rid of the male guardianship system entirely is a big challenge. Equality for women in marriage and family is still a long way off.

Marriage Requirements in Saudi Arabia

To get married in Saudi Arabia, couples must follow certain rules and regulations. This part explains what you need to know if you're planning a wedding in the country.

For a marriage to be valid in Saudi Arabia, both the bride and groom must consent in writing and verbally. They must both agree to the marriage willingly.

Still, it's key to remember that in Saudi Arabia, male guardians can consent for women. This matches the country's traditional practices.

While there's no set minimum marriage age, there's a push to make it 18. But, some religious objections hinder a clear age from being set. This issue shows the tough mix of religion and culture in Saudi society.

Marriages in Saudi Arabia follow the country's marriage laws, based on Islamic Sharia law. The Ministry of Justice interprets these laws to legally recognize marriages.

Marriage Requirements Summary:

ConsentWritten and verbal consent from both bride and groom
Male Guardian's ConsentMale guardians can provide consent on behalf of women
Minimum AgeNo specified minimum age, efforts to set the age of consent at 18
Governing LawMarriages are governed by Islamic Sharia law interpreted by the Ministry of Justice

Understanding Saudi Arabia's marriage requirements helps people plan their weddings with more clarity. It's crucial to know the cultural and legal details of getting married in Saudi Arabia.

Divorce Laws in Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, divorce is mainly guided by Sharia law under the Personal Status Law. It's important to know that divorce laws favor men, giving them the right to divorce easily. Women, however, can only ask for a divorce under strict conditions and face many obstacles.

Women wanting a divorce must prove they were harmed in their marriage. This makes getting a divorce harder for them. The law also values keeping the family together over a woman's safety and financial security. This makes it tough for women wanting to end their marriages.

"The divorce laws in Saudi Arabia perpetuate inequalities between men and women, placing women at a significant disadvantage when trying to end their marriages. The burden of proof and societal pressure on women make the divorce process arduous and often unfair."


The focus on keeping the family together often stops women from getting a divorce and starting anew. It ignores key issues like safety and financial independence. Thus, it's critical to change Saudi Arabia's divorce laws to ensure women have equal rights and protection.

Challenges Faced by Women in Divorce Proceedings

Women in Saudi Arabia face many hurdles in divorce:

  • Heavy burden of proof: Women must provide evidence of harm within the marriage, making it difficult to prove their case.
  • Financial burdens: Women often face financial hurdles in divorce proceedings, including potential loss of financial support and alimony.
  • Legal barriers: The complex legal process and lack of legal representation options can further hinder women's access to justice.
  • Social and cultural pressure: Stigma and societal pressure often discourage women from pursuing divorces, further limiting their options.

These challenges greatly limit a woman's ability to make decisions about ending a marriage. The current divorce laws in Saudi Arabia need significant changes. These reforms should ensure everyone has equal rights and protection during the divorce process.

Comparison Table: Divorce Laws in Saudi Arabia

Legal AspectMenWomen 
Right to initiate divorceUnconditionalLimited, based on certain grounds 
Requirement of evidenceNot applicableMust provide evidence of harm within the marriage 
Family reconciliation priority- 
Financial considerationsCan face financial burdens in divorce proceedingsCan face loss of financial support and alimony

Note: This table is provided for comparative purposes only. It is crucial to consult the applicable laws and seek legal advice for accurate and up-to-date information regarding divorce laws in Saudi Arabia.

Female Guardianship and Custody Rights

In Saudi Arabia, when parents separate or divorce, mothers automatically get custody of their children. Even so, fathers keep legal guardianship, letting them make important decisions for their child. This setup puts mothers in a tough spot. They can't fully decide on their child's health, schooling, or travel without the father's say-so.

This law in Saudi Arabia puts moms in a tough spot. They need the dad's OK for big choices about their children. This situation not only makes it hard for moms to care for their kids on their own but also keeps gender inequality going in the legal system.

For moms in Saudi Arabia, having custody doesn't make everything easy. Fathers have the final word on schooling, healthcare, and travel. Moms wanting to move or remarry bump into hurdles, as they need the dad's permission for these big steps.

The Impact on Women and Children

The gap between having custody and guardianship rights hurts moms and kids in Saudi Arabia. Moms may have the kids, but dads hold the real power. This imbalance can make things hard for both mothers and their children.

With little power to make choices, mothers struggle to look out for their children. They find it hard to get what their kids need, make healthcare decisions, or make sure their children are doing okay without being able to decide freely.

Kids can get caught in the middle of their parents' different roles. The clash between a mom's care and a dad's decisions can confuse and stress them, hurting their emotional well-being and sense of security.

Making custody laws in Saudi Arabia fairer is crucial for moms and kids. A fairer system would let moms have more say in their child's life. This would help in raising kids in a more supportive environment.

"The legal disparity between custody and guardianship rights affects not only mothers but also children in Saudi Arabia."

Domestic Violence and Women's Safety

In Saudi Arabia, the Personal Status Law doesn't fully protect women against domestic violence. The law supports traditional gender roles. It expects women to obey their husbands. This increases domestic violence risks for women.

Gender Roles and Patriarchy

The law in Saudi Arabia reinforces outdated gender roles. It tells women to put their husbands' wishes first, even before their safety. This situation allows abuse in marriages to continue because the law values husbands' control more than women's freedom.

In Saudi Arabia, the Personal Status Law expects women to "obey" their husbands, further exacerbating the power imbalance and enabling the perpetuation of domestic violence.

The Role of Financial Support

Husbands' financial support in Saudi Arabia depends on their wives' obedience. This traps women in abusive relationships because they rely financially on their partners. The fear of losing support makes leaving even harder.

Challenges for Victims

Domestic violence victims face huge challenges due to the male guardianship system. It limits their freedom, making it tough to get help. Societal stigma and a lack of domestic violence awareness add to their struggles.

Importance of Women's Safety

Keeping women safe is essential. Domestic violence in Saudi Arabia shows the need for legal changes. Reforms must tackle the deep issues that allow gender-based violence. They should support victims and empower women, ensuring their safety and rights.

Challenges Faced by Victims of Domestic Violence in Saudi ArabiaImpact on Women's Safety
Limited access to support services and resourcesPrevents victims from seeking help and escaping abusive situations
Fear of societal stigma and judgmentSilences victims and discourages reporting of abuse
Dependence on husbands for financial supportMakes it difficult for victims to leave abusive relationships
Systemic gender roles and expectationsPerpetuates the cycle of domestic violence and restricts women's autonomy

Saudi Arabia needs to combat domestic violence with legal reforms and awareness campaigns. Protecting women's safety as a basic right is crucial. They deserve to live without violence and abuse.

Inheritance Laws in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's Personal Status Law faces criticism for biased inheritance rules. These rules give men a bigger share, leaving women financially disadvantaged. The unequal money rules also make women financially vulnerable when a marriage ends.

In Saudi Arabia, men get more from estates than women do. Sons get twice as much as daughters, and husbands inherit from wives usually only if there are no sons. This unfair rule hurts women financially and keeps old, unfair norms alive.

Gender Discrimination in Inheritance Laws

Inheritance laws in Saudi Arabia favor male heirs, granting them a larger share of assets compared to female heirs.


Women lose financial independence due to these biased asset rules. They struggle to support their families. Inequality in inheritance clearly goes against gender equality and adds to the country's gender gap.

Challenging Financial Circumstances for Women

After a divorce or losing a spouse, women in Saudi face money troubles. The inheritance rules make this worse by blocking their way to property and wealth. This wealth could help their financial freedom.

Law points like the "mahar" also put women at a disadvantage. It's a big sum from the groom to the bride. Sometimes, women can't get the mahar they were promised, leaving them financially weak.

Possible Reforms and Advocacy

Lately, there's been pushback against these unfair inheritance laws. Activists in Saudi are fighting for fair asset sharing and financial security for women.

Also, global human rights groups are pushing Saudi to change its inheritance laws. They want laws that respect everyone's rights equally. These actions fight deep-rooted gender biases for a fairer society.

Key PointsImplications
1. Inheritance laws favor male heirs- Reinforces gender inequality
- Limits women's financial independence
2. Unequal distribution of assets- Contributes to economic disparities
- Hinders women's financial stability
3. Financial challenges after divorce or death- Women face difficulties accessing inheritance
- Limited financial support
4. Advocacy for reforms- Pushing for equal distribution of assets
- Promoting women's financial security

Tackling gender bias in Saudi's inheritance laws is key for women's rights and equality. Changing these laws for fair inheritance access is vital for justice and fairness in society.

Recent Reforms and Criticisms

The Saudi government started the Personal Status Law, seen as a step forward in Saudi Arabia. Yet, it has drawn criticism from groups focused on human rights. They claim the law keeps up discrimination against women and does not meet global human rights standards.

Even with talks of progress, women fighting for equal rights have been arrested. These activists didn't get a chance to help shape the law or share their views.

"The Personal Status Law falls short of its promise to bring about meaningful change and gender equality in Saudi Arabia. It is critical that the voices of women's rights activists are not silenced and that their input is solicited to address the shortcomings of the legislation." - Human Rights Watch


The law continues gender discrimination and supports a male-dominated society. It demands women get a male guardian's okay for big life choices, like marrying or getting divorced. This limits women's freedom and control over their lives.

Getting a divorce is harder for women too. Men can end a marriage whenever, but women must prove they are being harmed. These hurdles can trap women in bad or abusive marriages, affecting their safety and happiness.

Groups around the world, along with activists, are pushing for changes to Saudi Arabia's marriage rules. They want rights equal for both genders. Their goal is changes to the law that end male guardianship. They also want women to have more say in marriage, divorce, custody, and inheritance.

Progressive Steps Forward

Despite the criticisms, Saudi Arabia has made some reforms. Steps like ending the ban on women driving in 2018, more women working, and easing some rules on guardianship have been seen.

Still, there's a lot more to do for real, deep changes that make women truly equal in all life areas. It's key to keep supporting Saudi women's rights and pressing for more actions to stop discrimination and make gender equality real.

Recent ReformsCriticisms
Relaxation of some guardianship restrictions.Perpetuation of discrimination against women.
Lifting of the driving ban for women.Limitations on women's decision-making power.
Increased participation of women in the workforce.Obstacles faced by women seeking divorce.

Challenges for Individuals in Forced Marriages

In Saudi Arabia, people escaping forced marriages face huge hurdles. This includes United States citizens. Strict Shari'ah law and male guardianship limit women's rights, making it harder for them.

Forced marriage is a big issue in Saudi Arabia. It's where people, mostly women, are made to marry without wanting to. Sadly, there's little legal help for victims, leaving them helpless and trapped.

The male guardianship system puts more pressure on those in forced marriages. Under it, a woman's life choices, like marriage, are controlled by a male guardian. This control makes it very hard for women to say no to or escape these marriages.

Another problem is violence against women in these marriages. They face abuse and control, making it scary for them to leave. The risk of violence keeps many from trying to get free.

Let’s look at the story of Sarah* (we changed her name). She was a victim of a forced marriage:

"I was forced into a marriage against my will. It was like a nightmare. I didn't love him. The abuse was awful. I felt so stuck and alone, with no help in sight."


Sarah's story shows why we need better protections in Saudi Arabia. We should spread awareness, offer help, and make new laws to stop forced marriages. It’s important to protect and listen to the people affected, especially women.

The Risks of Escaping Forced Marriages

Leaving a forced marriage is risky and tough. People trying to leave face many problems, like:

  • Fear of revenge from family or others
  • Having no money or people to help them
  • Legal challenges and little help from the law
  • Getting judged and rejected by society

These risks make escaping very hard. Lack of protections and support keeps victims stuck and in danger. We need to work together to offer better help and change laws. This will protect those in danger.

Risks and Protections in Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, people face big risks regarding forced marriages. The laws on marriage don't protect those in forced marriages well. Those suffering from domestic violence find it hard to speak up or get away because of the male guardianship system.

The male guardianship system requires women and kids to get a man's permission to leave the country. This makes escaping forced marriages tough. Hence, their freedom is greatly limited. The legal help available is often not enough for those in such tough situations.

"The male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia creates a power imbalance and perpetuates the vulnerabilities of victims in forced marriages. It limits access to legal remedies and hinders the ability of victims of domestic violence to seek help or escape abusive situations." - Human Rights Organization


This same guardianship system also makes it hard for victims to get the legal support they need. By doing so, it promotes gender inequality and blocks efforts to protect those in forced marriages.

There's a big need for changes to protect women and forced marriage victims better. Saudi laws on marriage and family should focus on stopping discrimination, empowering women, and creating strong legal protections. This would improve safety and respect everyone's rights, no matter their gender or status.

Key Risks:

  • Limited legal protections
  • Risk of violence and abuse
  • Restrictions on freedom and mobility
  • Barriers to accessing legal support

Protections Needed:

  • Reforms to marriage rules and family law
  • Stronger legal protections against forced marriages
  • Accessible and effective support services for victims
  • Education and awareness campaigns to prevent forced marriages

It's crucial to tackle these risks and put in place strong protections in Saudi Arabia. Changing marriage rules and family law will be a key step. This will help ensure women's rights, stop gender discrimination, and support those affected by forced marriages.

Limited legal protectionsReforms to marriage rules and family law
Risk of violence and abuseStronger legal protections against forced marriages
Restrictions on freedom and mobilityAccessible and effective support services for victims
Barriers to accessing legal supportEducation and awareness campaigns to prevent forced marriages

Figure 1: Risks and Protections in Saudi Arabia

Assistance for Individuals from the United States

People from the U.S. facing or escaping forced marriages in Saudi Arabia have places to turn for help. Various groups provide important support, access to government aid, and help finding shelter and services back in the U.S. The Tahirih Justice Center Forced Marriage Initiative and the U.S. State Department are two key organizations in this effort.

The Tahirih Justice Center Forced Marriage Initiative works hard to protect people from forced marriages. They give them tools and support to take back control of their lives. This includes legal and social services, like access to lawyers, counseling, and other necessary resources.

The U.S. State Department is vital in helping U.S. citizens faced with forced marriages abroad. They offer a wide range of support, such as emergency help and services to return home. The Office of Overseas Citizens Services connects people with local authorities. They also provide important information and help with the legal and logistical challenges ahead.

"Our organization is committed to empowering individuals to escape forced marriages and rebuild their lives. Through a multidisciplinary approach that combines legal advocacy, social services, and community engagement, we strive to protect the rights and well-being of those facing these challenging situations." - Tahirih Justice Center Forced Marriage Initiative


If you or someone you know is forced into marriage in Saudi Arabia, it's vital to contact these groups. They have the expertise and resources to help you through this hard time. They make sure you're safe and well. Remember, you are not alone, and there is help available.

Assistance Organizations:

  • Tahirih Justice Center Forced Marriage Initiative
  • U.S. State Department


The Personal Status Law in Saudi Arabia seems like progress but still falls short. It does not fully protect women's rights in marriage, divorce, custody, and inheritance. This law urgently needs to change to meet international human rights standards.

Listening to women's rights activists is vital. Many have been silenced or imprisoned, but their stories can guide real progress.

By fixing the flaws in the Personal Status Law, Saudi Arabia can create a fairer society. In such a place, women would have the power to make important life decisions for themselves and their children.


What are the basic rules and regulations regarding marriage in Saudi Arabia?

In Saudi Arabia, the Personal Status Law demands that women get consent from a male guardian to marry. It also expects wives to obey their husbands strictly. This law is built on Sharia law and managed by the Ministry of Justice.

Do both the bride and groom need to provide consent for a marriage to be valid in Saudi Arabia?

Yes, for a marriage to be official in Saudi Arabia, both the bride and groom must agree. This includes both written and spoken consent. Yet, a woman's male guardian can give consent for her.

What are the age requirements for marriage in Saudi Arabia?

There isn't a set minimum age for marriage in Saudi Arabia. Efforts to make 18 the legal age for marriage have met with resistance. This opposition is often based on religious beliefs.

How do divorce laws in Saudi Arabia work?

Men in Saudi Arabia can easily start a divorce under the Personal Status Law. On the other hand, women can only request a divorce for specific reasons, like harm. Getting a divorce can be hard for women due to several obstacles.

What are the custody rights for parents in cases of separation or divorce in Saudi Arabia?

After a separation or divorce, mothers usually get custody of their children. Even so, fathers keep legal guardianship. This means they make important life decisions for the child.

How does the Personal Status Law protect women from domestic violence in Saudi Arabia?

The Personal Status Law doesn't effectively shield women from domestic violence. By promoting traditional gender roles, it expects women to follow their husbands' commands. Husbands' financial support is tied to wives' obedience.

What are the inheritance laws in Saudi Arabia?

The law in Saudi Arabia is unfair to women in inheritance cases. Men receive a bigger portion of the assets. This action continues economic inequality based on gender.

What are the recent reforms and criticisms of Saudi Arabia's marriage rules?

The Saudi government claimed the Personal Status Law was a step forward. However, human rights groups and activists argue it keeps discriminating against women. They say it doesn't meet international human rights standards.

What challenges do individuals in forced marriages face in Saudi Arabia?

Those in or escaping forced marriages in Saudi Arabia, including Americans, encounter many problems. The strict Sharia law and male guardianship system restrict women's freedoms and choices.

What risks and protections exist for individuals in forced marriages in Saudi Arabia?

Individuals trapped in forced marriages have little help under current Saudi laws. Due to the male guardianship system, it's tough for victims to speak out or leave. Those wishing to flee need permission from the family's male head, adding to the difficulty.

Is there any assistance available for individuals from the United States facing forced marriages in Saudi Arabia?

Groups like the Tahirih Justice Center Forced Marriage Initiative and the U.S. State Department help Americans in forced marriages in Saudi Arabia. They offer support, connect them to U.S. resources, and arrange for shelter and services back home.

What is the conclusion regarding Saudi Arabia's marriage rules?

Saudi Arabia's Personal Status Law does not protect women's rights enough. It keeps discrimination alive in marriage, divorce, custody, and inheritance. The law needs serious updates to fit international human rights standards, ensuring equality and safety for women.