Saudi Arabia’s appointed parliament has endorsed a law on the protection of children and set the child’s age limit at 18 years, a newspaper said on Tuesday.
The Shura Council discussed the law presented by the Saudi government at its session on Monday and gave it its approval following several debates and rifts on the child age limit in the Gulf Kingdom.
“Shura approved the child protection law at its session yesterday….it also put an end to disagreements about the child’s age limit when it approved a government proposal setting it at 18 years,” Alwatan daily reported on Tuesday.
It said the law includes 25 articles dealing with the protection of children and penalties against physical, sexual or psychological harm of children.
“The law also defines the responsibility of the parents of other custodians in bringing up their children, protecting them and ensuring they are not harmed or neglected,” the paper said.
Conservative Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil basin, has been hit by a surge in child violence in the absence of clear laws on such cases.
Last year, officials said the Gulf Kingdom is in the process of setting up telephone hotlines for reporting child abuses as part of its measures to curb the problem following a sharp increase in such incidents.
The country has already established 38 child protection centres and is planning to create hotlines and an online network for reporting such incidents, they said.
In 2009, hospitals and authorities received 164 cases involving mistreatment and other acts of violence against children, official data showed.
The Kingdom with around 27 million people is also enacting laws to regulate the marriage of teenage girls following reports about a surge in such weddings and criticism by international agencies.
Saudi Justice Minister Mohammed Al Issa said in late 2010 that new regulations are needed to put an end to what he described as widespread controversy and confusion about such marriages.
"The Ministry is studying a draft law to regulate the marriage of teenage girls," he said, without giving details of the law and the date of its enforcement.
"The marriage of teenage and underage girls in the country is not a phenomenon yet as some claim... those who say this are wrong. We are considering regulations in line with the Islamic Shariah to govern this kind of marriage."
Al Issa said he hoped the new law would contribute to "ending all problems and confusion associated with female teen age marriage".