Saudi Arabia: Men banned from marrying some expat women

Marriage rules from Makkah newspaper Saudi newspaper Makkah summarises the new marriage rules

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has announced tighter regulations for men wanting to marry foreigners, and has banned them from marrying expat workers from four specific countries, it seems.

Bridegrooms must give the police a marriage proposal and ID signed by their local mayor - which will then be sent to the government for consideration - says Mecca Police Chief Assaf Al-Qurshi. The suitors must be aged over 25 and wait at least six months after a divorce, the Makkah newspaper reports. For married men, "He should attach a report from a government-run hospital proving his wife is suffering from a chronic disease... or is sterile." Meanwhile married men with healthy wives need to have written proof their spouse will let the wedding take place.

But men are apparently banned altogether from marrying expat workers from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Chad and Burma. Unofficial statistics say that Saudi Arabia, which already has a very large foreign workforce - some estimate it at nine million people or 30% of the population - has about 500,000 female residents from those four countries.

The move has raised eyebrows in the Gulf and Pakistani press. Comments on the the Pakistani Dawn newspaper site range from accusing the kingdom of racism to suggesting "our women are safe now". And the Saudi Gazette asks why women from these four countries are singled out in particular. The Saudi government has not commented officially on the report.

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