In the news in Saudi Arabia is the story of a 15 year old girl who was married off to a 90 year old man in Jazan. Her parents collected $17.000 in mahr for the girl. After the marriage the girl ”panicked” and locked herself into the bedroom for two days. She escaped and went back to her parents. The old man is now planning to sue the parents he wants them to send the girl back or have his money back.
According to Al Arabiya TV channel, the man said he paid the dowry to the young girl’s Saudi mother and Yemeni father, making the marriage “legal and correct”.
In Islam the husband has to pay the bride a sum of money, or give her property or valuables on marriage. This is called mahr. Without the payment of mahr the marriage is invalid. The mahr is the sole property of the bride, it does not belong to her family, she does not have to give it back in case of divorce, it is hers to with as she pleases.
This story has gotten a lot of attention in Saudi Arabia, people on Twitter call it ”Child-trafficking” and ”prostitution”.
Suhaila Zain Al-Abideen, a member of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), called on authorities to swiftly intervene and save the girl. She said there was too huge an age gap between the man and the girl.
“The girl did not consent to the marriage and that was why she locked herself in. She didn’t want to marry the old man. When you consider the very large difference in age, it looks more like this was not a marriage, but like the girl was sold,” al-Abedin said. “The girl’s parents need to be held responsible for this.”
Jamal Al-Twairqi, a psychologist, said the girl is too young to make a decision on her marriage. If she is forced to go back to her husband, she might commit suicide, he warned.
The Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al Sheikh considers girls ready for marriage from the age of 10 or 12, according to Islam. He gave this statement at the faculty of Imam Mohamed bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh in 2012:
“Those who call for raising the age of marriage to 25 are absolutely mistaken,” He added: “Our mothers and grandmothers got married when they were barely 12. Good upbringing makes a girl ready to perform all marital duties at that age.”
Saudi Arabia is facing strong pressure to raise the minimum age for marriage, following international criticism of cases involving children forced into wedlock with older men.
In 2010, the Saudi Human Rights Commission hired a lawyer to help a 12-year old girl divorce her 80-year old husband.