8 year old marriage in Saudi Arabia, 8 year old denied divorce, divorcees in Saudi Arabia
Associated Press

8-Year-Old Saudi Girl's Marriage Legally Annulled

May 04, 2009 07:20 AM
by Anne Szustek
A Saudi court nullified the arranged marriage of an 8-year-old girl to a 58-year-old man. The case, which has been in the news for several months, had angered international rights groups and many Saudis alike.

Court Ruling Frees Saudi Girl from Arranged Marriage

After months of appeals, a marriage in Saudi Arabia between a 58-year-old man and an 8-year-old girl was nullified in a legal settlement Wednesday.

The girl was essentially sold off by her father to the middle-aged man for a dowry of 30,000 riyals (about $8,000). The girl's parents are divorced, and her father used the money to repay a debt. According to sharia law, dowry is considered the property of the bride in Islam. Arab News writes, "Had the girl later decided not to continue the marriage at adulthood, her father would have been expected to return the dowry."

The 58-year-old man had refused to divorce the girl. The child lives with her mother, who objected to the marriage; late last year, she filed divorce proceedings on her daughter’s behalf in a court in Unayzah (also transliterated as Onaiza), a town some 135 miles to the north of the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
The judge in the case dismissed the plea Dec. 20, ruling that the mother did not have the right to petition for her daughter’s divorce, and that the child would not be old enough to file for divorce herself until she reached puberty. As part of the requirements for the marriage to go through, however, the man was required to agree to postpone consummating the marriage until the girl was 18.

Abdullah Jtili, a lawyer working on the case, was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse and cited by findingDulcinea that the girl “doesn’t know yet that she has been married.”

Some within ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia are working to update marriage laws within the framework of the country's austere interpretation of sharia law. A consultant at the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Justice believes that the legal age of marriage should be set at 18. A Jeddah lawyer agreed that minors should not marry, but that it is still legal under sharia until the Saudi government modifies the law.

Reference: Sharia law and its role in Saudi Arabia

Sharia is the Islamic legal code, drawing from Islam's holy texts, which include the Quran, considered by Muslims to be the irrefutable word of God as spoken to the Prophet Muhammad; and the hadith, the ways of the prophet.

There are varying schools of Islamic jurisprudence. Saudi Arabia takes a very literal approach to sharia; it effectively serves as the national constitution, determining multiple aspects of daily life, governmental affairs, banking and holidays.

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