After years of discussions, Saudi Arabia finally announced this week that it has banned child marriages, making 18 the minimum age for weddings.

Minister of Justice and Chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council Sheikh Dr. Walid Al-Samaani addressed all courts with an official statement in which he stressed the new law.

There's one loophole, though.

Any teenager below the age of 18 will from now on be referred to specialized courts that will assess whether they can get married or not. These courts' job is to study each child marriage case to confirm that the future spouse who's under 18 years old, boy or girl, will not be harmed as a result of this wedding and that this union will be of the best interest to the youngster. 

This new decision follows an earlier law that was revealed in January of this year and which bans the marriage of children under 15 years old. Prior to the latter, Saudi Arabia did not have a minimum legal age for marriage.

In 2017, several Shura Council members sent a letter to the Justice Ministry demanding that marriage for girls under 15 years of age be banned. The 150-member advisory body emphasized the need for more regulated matrimonial laws for girls between 15 and 18 years of age. 

Around two years later, in January 2019, two thirds of the advisory body voted in favor of the law. 

"There were no marriage limitations before, so for this to be passed and prohibit marriage for a child under 15 is a huge accomplishment because you will be protecting young boys and girls," one council member told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at the time. 

Child marriage continues to be a major issue all around the world

Normalizing child marriages has become commonplace, and thousands of Arabs who marry off their young daughters use religious edicts to excuse their actions. 

Even though the problem is widespread in the Arab world, especially when it comes to rural areas, it isn't limited to the region and is also considered a global issue affecting numerous countries including the United States.

According to the World Economic Forum, 117 countries around the world allow child marriages, either because there is no set age specification or it is allowed under certain circumstances. Globally, UNICEF says 39,000 child marriages occur daily. While one in three girls in the developing world are forced into marriage before the age of 18.