A 12-year-old Saudi girl unexpectedly gave up her petition for divorce from an 80-year-old man her father forced her to marry in exchange for a dowry, Saudi media reported Tuesday.
Despite support from human rights lawyers and child welfare advocates, the girl and her mother, who originally sought the divorce, withdrew the case Monday in a court in Buraidah, in Al-Qasim province, newspapers said.
The girl told the court that her marriage to the man was done with her agreement, according to Okaz newspaper.
"I agree to the marriage. I have no objection. This is in filial respect to my father and obedience to his wish," she said.
Saleh al-Dabibi, a lawyer supplied by a charity group to help the girl, said her mother did not inform him of the change of heart, Okaz said.
An unnamed official of the government's Human Rights Commission, which was originally asked by the mother to help in getting the marriage annulled, told Arab News they too were surprised by the mother and daughter dropping the case.
I agree to the marriage. I have no objection. This is in filial respect to my father and obedience to his wish
A princess' concern
The influential daughter of King Abdullah, Princess Adela bint Abdullah, expressed concern over the girl's marriage.
"I, personally, and many specialists in social and education fields, share the opinion" that it is in violation of children's rights," Al-Riyadh newspaper reported.
"A child has the right to live her childhood and not be forced to get married. Even an adult would not accept that," she said.
According to reports, the girl's father, who is separated from her mother, arranged her marriage to the 80-year-old last September in exchange for a dowry payment of 85,000 riyals (22,667 dollars).
The case caused an uproar after Al-Riyadh newspaper first reported it in early January, saying the marriage had been consummated and quoting the girl as pleading to the journalist to "save me."
Her mother, who is unidentified in local reports, petitioned the court to annul the marriage and charged that the girl had been raped.
The case was to be heard Monday, but reports said the mother dropped the complaint ahead of the hearing.
Saudi Arabia has no law against child marriage, and clerics and religious judges justify the practice based on Islamic and Saudi tradition.
But human rights officials have been pushing for a law that would set a minimum marriage age of 16 or higher.
In January, senior cleric Sheikh Abdullah al-Manie told Okaz that the Prophet Mohammed's marriage to a nine-year-old girl some 14 centuries ago cannot be used to justify child marriages today.
Manie, a member of the Council of Senior Ulema (scholars), said that circumstances are different today from when the Prophet Mohammed married young Aisha.
I, personally, and many specialists in social and education fields, share the opinion" that it is in violation of children's rights
Princess Adela bint Abdullah