Saudi Arabia's Shura Council is set to discuss a controversial plan that would enforce pre-marital drug and mental health medical examinations across the country, Al Riyadh newspaper reported.
The scheme - which will be discussed next week - was proposed by council member Iqbal Darandari and aims to protect Saudi families.
In her proposal, the official called on the country's Ministry of Health to expand its existing list of mandatory tests couples have to undergo before tying the knot. She explained that these exams must include drug tests, mental health assessments, and advanced genetic testing.
"Drug tests are already mandatory for foreigners who want to marry Saudis and must be made so for nationals as well. The rates of divorce are at an all time high with over 56,000 cases reported last year. Domestic violence against both children and women is also skyrocketing, and most cases are often related to drug and substance abuse," she wrote.
Darandari also added that though there are a set of pre-marital checkups currently required in Saudi Arabia, they only include basic genetic tests and haven't been updated in 15 years.
"There are several genetic disorders that have recently developed in our society since, including genetic deafness and blindness. These need to be included in the new set of tests," she added.
Sources speaking to Al Riyadh newspaper said the council's health committee isn't favorably looking at Darandari's proposal, mainly because the country's Board for Genetic Diseases is the only authority allowed to handle the decision to expand genetic testing. Members also believe drug tests might cause problems due to inaccuracy and the fact that they're not socially acceptable in the kingdom.
A final decision on the proposal will be made during a vote session that will also see members discuss 12 schemes set to enhance the performance of the kingdom's health sector.
Though her proposal has not yet been voted on, Al Darandari's scheme left thousands of Saudis divided.
Many are all for the official's plan and believe it will help curb genetic diseases, in addition to lowering the high rates of domestic violence in cases related to substance abuse.
Some believe since engagements in the ultra-conservative kingdom are usually short, couples don't get to know if their partners have drug related issues or mental illnesses, making these examinations all the more important.
However, many also criticized the plan, specifically the drug and mental health test recommendations because they believe they are personal issues that need to be solved by the couple, not officials.
"This is the best decision"
"I don't think it even needs discussing, it's a great idea ... speed it up"
Saudi women want the proposal to pass
"With that, the reasoning that ruined the lives of millions of girls will end. (Marry him off he'll get to grow up.)"
"The best thing I heard today, they should've done this a long time ago"
Not everyone had the same opinion, though
"As usual, weak proposals and suggestions; their goal is to get famous. They looked away from the failed marriage laws, including:
- A husband's guardianship of his wife.
- Forcing a husband to finance the household (both partners must share this responsibility).
And so many other failed laws and they're focusing on testing mental illnesses. OK, I want to marry a woman who has a mental problem, what's it to you?"
Many criticized the proposal
"I think this is an incredibly failed decision. Authorities have nothing to do with these things."