Saudi girl, 8, must stay married to 58-year old
An 8-year old Saudi Arabian girl forced into a marriage with a 58-year old man (CNN reports that he’s 47) must stay married, according to a Saudi Judge, Sheikh Habib Abdallah al-Habib. Her father arranged the marriage in order to cover his debts to the man, who is reportedly “a close friend.” The amount in question is approximately $7961 US.
The girl’s mother, with whom she lives, petitioned the court to annul the marriage; however the judge ruled that the mother, who is divorced from the father, is not the legal guardian of the girl and thus has no standing to bring suit. The judge ruled that the girl could petition in her own right for a divorce once she reaches puberty, however there is no accepted definition of what constitutes puberty under sharia law. The father apparently had asked the man not to have sex with his “wife” until she reached 18. The judge has asked for some sort of pledge from the husband against consummating the marriage until she reaches puberty, whatever that may mean. (I presume that the pledge would go to the father, not the girl, if te girl is statutorily raped, as such activity would be called in the civilized world).
Such marriages between young girls and (much) older men are not terribly uncommon in Saudi Arabia, though there are Saudis who oppose child marriages and point out that they violate various human rights agreements to which the kingdom is a party. (As I’d previously noted, women are not currently allowed to drive legally in the kingdom, which is hardly a bastion of women’s rights.)
Apparently the girl doesn’t yet know that she’s married. Hopefully the girl continues living with her mother and doesn’t find out about her marriage until she gets to sign the divorce papers in a few years.