A Saudi judge refused for the second time to grant an eight-year-old girl a divorce from her 47-year-old husband, local press reported Saturday, in a decision the girl’s mother promised to appeal.
Judge Habib al-Habib of the Unaizah Court, ruled that the girl cannot file for divorce until she reaches puberty, upholding his initial ruling refusing to annul the marriage.
The story that sparked an international outcry began five months ago when the girl’s mother found out by coincidence that her husband had married off their daughter to a man without informing either wife or daughter.
The marriage contract was part of a loan repayment agreement. The groom agreed to deduct 30,000 riyals ($8,000) from a debt the father owed him in return. The 47-year-old has promised not to consummate the marriage until his bride reaches puberty.
The mother sought to annul the marriage, but the judge dismissed the petition because she was not the girls’ legal guardian and could not represent her.
Her failed efforts to get the marriage annulled sparked international outrage over the case and further focused the public’s attention on the issue of child marriage following a series of cases in which very young girls were married off to men many times their age.
The second verdict is currently awaiting certification by the appeals court and there is a possibility another judge will be appointed to handle the case, the bride's uncle told AlArabiya.net.
The court has to make an example of him so that others won't try to do the same thing
"In its report, the court directed many questions to the judge," he explained. "When is the girl supposed to reach puberty? Is the father responsible enough to be the girl's guardian? Is the marriage in the girl's benefit?"
He said the judge had initially sought to negotiate with the groom to divorce the girl in exchange for a monetary payment, but it was rejected.
"We cannot accept that. It's like rewarding him. The court has to make an example of him so that others won't try to do the same thing," said the girl’s uncle, who was prohibited by the judge from attending the hearing. "He told me there is no point of my presence."
The Ministry of Justice is currently looking into establishing a legal age for the marriage of minors, said Sheik Mohamed bin Abdul-Rahman, head of the ministry's marriage registrar department.
"The ministry is thoroughly studying the issue," he told the Saudi newspaper al-Madina Thursday. "But we haven't agreed on an age for marrying girls yet."
The ministry is thoroughly studying the issue. But we haven't agreed on an age for marrying girls yet
Sheik Mohamed bin Abdul-Rahman, marriage registrar department
Human rights violation
A recent report issued recently by the Saudi Human Rights Society referred to child marriage as a flagrant violation of children's rights and an abuse of their physical and psychological health.
After the original verdict the Society of Defending Women's Rights in Saudi Arabia said in a statement that the judge's decision went against children's "basic rights" and that marrying children makes them "lose their sense of security and safety.”
"Also, it destroys their feeling of being loved and nurtured. It causes them a lifetime of psychological problems and severe depression," added the statement.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)
It causes them a lifetime of psychological problems and severe depression
Society of Defending Rights of Women