RIYADH, December 21 – A Saudi court has rejected a plea to divorce an eight-year-old girl married off by her father to a man who is 58, saying the case should wait until the girl reaches puberty, a lawyer involved told AFP.
"The judge has dismissed the plea (filed by the mother) because she does not have the right to file such a case, and ordered that the plea should be filed by the girl herself when she reaches puberty," lawyer Abdullah Jtili told AFP in a telephone interview after Saturday’s court decision.
The divorce plea was filed in August by the girl’s divorced mother with a court at Unayzah, 220 kilometres north of Riyadh just after the marriage contract was signed by the father and the groom.
"She doesn’t know yet that she has been married," Jtili said then of the girl who was about to begin her fourth year at primary school.
Relatives who did not wish to be named told AFP that the marriage had not yet been consummated, and that the girl continued to live with her mother. They said that the father had set a verbal condition by which the marriage is not consummated for another 10 years, when the girl turns 18.
The father had agreed to marry off his daughter for an advance dowry of 30,000 riyals (8,000 dollars), as he was apparently facing financial problems, they said.
The father was in court and he remained adamant in favour of the marriage, they added.
Lawyer Jtili said he was going to appeal the verdict at the court of cassation, the Supreme Court in the ultra-conservative kingdom which applies Islamic Sharia law in its courts.
Arranged marriages involving pre-adolescents are occasionally reported in the Arabian Peninsula, including in Saudi Arabia where the strict conservative Wahabi version of Sunni Islam holds sway and polygamy is common.
In Yemen in April, another girl aged eight was granted a divorce after her unemployed father forced her to marry a man of 28.