The population of Bahrain is predominantly Muslim. Of the total resident population of 1.65 million (2021), 70.2% is Muslim and 29.8% are adherents of other religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Baha’ism. 99.8% of Bahraini citizens are Muslims.

Information About Muslim Family Laws And/or Practices In Bahrain

Marriage and Family Matters

Marriage and family matters are governed by the Family Law of 2017.

Equal Status in Marriage

Women and men are not equal partners in marriage. A woman is obligated to care for the household and obey her husband in return for financial maintenance.

Minimum Age of Marriage

There is no absolute minimum age of marriage. Girls younger than 16 may be married with permission of a judge.

Equal Access to Divorce

Women do not have equal access to divorce. A man may divorce his wife at any time and without cause, while a woman must prove a legitimate cause or pay significant sums of money to exit a marriage.

Positive Feature Under Muslim Family Law

The law protects women from forced marriages and codifies women’s financial and custody rights after a divorce.

Administration Of And Access To Justice On Marriage And Family Matters

Marriage, divorce, and family disputes fall under the jurisdiction of Shari’ah Courts, which are staffed exclusively by male religious scholars who retain wide discretion to interpret and apply the law.

Constitutional Provisions and National Legislation

Constitutional Provisions

Article 18 of the Constitution of Bahrain declares all citizens to be equal before the law in public rights and duties and prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, origin, language, religion, or creed.” It also states that the family is the basis of society, and commits the state to guarantee reconciling the duties of women towards the family with their work in society, and to guarantee their equality with men in the political, social, cultural, and economic spheres, without breaching the provisions of Shari’ah.”

Other National Laws

The Domestic Violence Law applies to all citizens and residents in Bahrain. The Penal Code includes sanctions against acts of domestic violence but does not criminalize marital rape. Honor crimes continue to receive mitigated sentences under the Penal Code, which also exempts a rapist for punishment if he marries his victim.

Regional or International Human Rights Principles

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

Bahrain acceded to CEDAW on 18 June 2002. It has expressed reservations to Articles 2, 9(2) 15(4), and 16 of the Convention, in so far as they conflict with Shari’ah, in addition to article 29(1).

The last CEDAW review occurred in 2014.

Links to CEDAW reports that refer to Muslim family laws and practices

  • State Party Reports
  1. State Party Report (12 November 2007):  
  2. State Party Report (21 December 2011): 
  3. State Pary Report (1 March 2018):
  • Reports Submitted by NGOs:
  1. Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Youth Society for Human Rights and CARAM-Asia (October 2008):
  2. Coalition of Bahraini NGOs (September 2008): 
  3. Bahrain Center for Human Rights and FIDH (July 2013):
  4. Bahrain Women’s Union (2014):
  5. Bahrain Women’s Union (October 2018):
  6. Bahrain Center for Human Rights (June 2020): 

Links to Concluding Observations That Refer to Reform of Muslim Family Laws and Practices

Any other relevant regional or international treaty or convention signed by Bahrain

  • Other treaties

Convention on the Rights of the Child (13 February 1992).

  • Sustainable Development Goals

Bahrain has signed on to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For information on Bahrain’s efforts to achieve the SGD and status monitoring, see 

Key Resources About Muslim Family Law

By local researchers, activists and civil society groups

  1. Shamsaha – resources for women, including resources summarizing the family law and other relevant laws, available support services, and specialized services for victims and survivors of domestic violence:
  2. Bahrain Women؛s Union – resources on family law and relevant legislation and practices, in addition to analysis and advocacy materials (Arabic only):

By government agencies/committees

  1. The Supreme Council for Women: — general information about national strategies for women, statistics and data, and summaries of key legislations related to family law and women’s rights (Arabic and English).
  2. Legal Affairs Directorate: – searchable database of all primary and secondary legislation in Bahrain.
  3. Ministry of Justice:  – texts of relevant circulars and decision, and links to forms and templates, including standard marriage contract (in Arabic only, English content is incomplete).

By international bodies

  1. UNDP Human Development Report – Bahrain:
  2. World Bank Gender Data Portal – Bahrain:
  3. UN Women Bahrain Country Fact Sheet:

National Groups and Campaigns Working on Muslim Family Law

There is an ongoing campaign on social media (mainly Twitter) for equality in the Citizenship Law, under the Arabic hashtag “citizenship is my right and my children’s right”جنسيتي_حق_لي_ولابنائي&src=typed_query&f=top 

The Bahrain Women’s Union: an umbrella organization encompassing various local activists and women’s civil society organizations:

It has lobbied for equality and justice in the family law. 

Reform Timeline


Sunni Muslim Family Law codified


Comprehensive (Sunni and Shi’a) Family Law codified



This country page was prepared by Salma Waheedi, attorney and legal researcher, as a collaboration under the Campaign for Justice in Muslim Family Laws.