12-year-old bride's divorce prompts marriage age review in Saudi Arabia

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Dubai, Apr 22 (ANI): In what could become a prelude to introduction of a minimum age for marriage in Saudi Arabia, a 12-year-old girl has won a divorce from her 80-year-old husband.

According to local reports, 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 12-year-old, with the help of Saudi Government legal assistance, fought her case in a court in Buraidah, near Riyadh.

The unusual legal challenge had generated international media attention and scrutiny of Saudi Arabia's record of child marriages, and prompted the state-run Human Rights Commission to appoint a lawyer to represent her.

Based on the ruling, the commission has assembled three committees to examine the possibility of pushing for a legal minimum age for marriage of at least 16.

"The main aim is to not allow cases like this to happen again," The Times Online quoted Alanoud alHejailan, a lawyer for the commission, as saying.

"There will be some opposition, of course, but we feel that public opinion has changed on this issue. We want to gather all the public support we can for a minimum age for marriage," he added.

The case had 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. (ANI)

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