The Times reports a 12-year-old girl married to a 80-year-old man in the middle east will receive legal assistance from the state-run Saudi Human Rights Commission.
The paper says the girl’s fight for freedom in Buraidah, a conservative town near the capital Riyadh, “could become a test case for banning child marriage in the kingdom.”
Currently, Saudi Arabia has no legal minimum age for marriage and many older men take child brides, particularly in poor tribal areas.
According to the Times the girl’s father sold her to his cousin last year for a dowry of 85,000 riyals (£14,500). Both the girl and her mother opposed the marriage.
The Saudi Human Rights Commission says its main concern in intervening in the case “is to safeguard the child’s rights.” It has indicated that it will pursue the matter through the appeals courts if the court of first instance refuses to grant a divorce.
One might think it obvious how the court will rule in the case. However, some judges and clerics have cited the Prophet Muhammad’s marriage to a nine-year-old girl fourteen centuries ago to justify the marriage.
Moreover, the Times reports that in April 2009 a Saudi judge refused to annul a marriage between an eight-year-old girl and a man in his late forties, saying that she could not seek divorce until she reached puberty.
If you’re a British citizen or UK resident and worried you might be forced into a marriage – or you’re worried about anyone else – call the UK Home Office’s Forced Marriage Unit at +44 (0)20 7008 0151, between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday. Alternatively, an Emergency Duty Officer is available outside of office hours at +44 (0)20 7008 1500.
- UK Immigration: New Marriage Law Hits Headlines
- Forced Marriage Unit
- What Is Forced Marriage?
- Forced Marriage Survivor’s Handbook: read this if you’ve already been forced into marriage; it will offer some advice and help you plan for the future.
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