Saudi Govt to provide legal help to 12-year-old girl fighting to divorce 80-year-old husband

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Dubai, Feb. 9 (ANI): In what could become a prelude to the banning of child marriage in Saudi Arabia, the Government has decided to provide legal assistance to a 12-year-old girl who is fighting to divorce her 80-year-old husband.

The state-run Human Rights Commission has hired a lawyer to represent the girl when she takes her case to court in Buraidah, close to capital Riyadh, The Times reports.

According to local report, the girl was married to her father's cousin last year against her wishes and those of her mother. The marriage was sealed with a dowry of 85,000 riyals and consummated.

The girl's mother filed for divorce but withdrew her case without explanation this month.

This is the first time that the Human Rights Commission has intervened publicly in such a case.

"Our main concern is to safeguard the child's rights. it is in the hands of the court but the commission is firmly on the child's side," Alanoud al-Hejailan, a lawyer for the commission, said.

While there is no minimum legal age for marriage in Saudi Arabia, it is rare for a child bride to challenge the match.

The case has sparked debate in Saudi Arabia, with some judges and clerics using Prophet Muhammad's marriage to a nine-year-old girl as justification of child marriage.

However, in January Sheikh Abdullah al-Manie, a senior Saudi cleric, spoke out in defence of the girl, declaring that the Prophet's marriage 14 centuries ago could not be used to justify child marriages today.

Meanwhile, a draft law prohibiting child marriage is under discussion and activists hope that the case will be a watershed in the campaign to ban the practice.

The draft law is expected to establish a minimum age for marriage of between 16 and 18. As a short-term measure activists are pressing for the Government to ban notaries from sealing marriages of girls under 18. (ANI)

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