A 70-year-old man marries a teenager, but claims his new bride is not 15 years old after human rights workers confirmed her age, which has led to outrage in Saudi Arabia. The groom also claims that it was her family who is disputing the bride’s age and says they stole a large dowry he paid for at the wedding.
“She is not 15 as everybody claims,” he said. “She’s 25 years old, and she’s mature enough to make her own decisions… I was fooled by the girl’s family.”
The man says he paid $20,000 for the dowry, which he claims was stolen when the girl’s family had taken her back.
In Saudi Arabia, where the couple married, there is no law that stipulates a minimum age for marriage.
Human rights workers say they believe there was a fight between the teen and the man, and she ran back to her family. Her father is believed to be Yemeni, her mother Saudi, the rights workers said.
She is from Al-Hurath village in Jizan province, in southwestern Saudi Arabia near the border with Yemen, according to Dr. Hadi Al-Yami, the head of the Asir branch of the Human Rights Commission. The group is backed by the Saudi government.
The commission sent an investigator to the courthouse in Al-Hurath, Al-Yami said, and is planning to offer the girl and her family as much help as she’s able to receive, particularly legal help in case the courts require her to dispute the marriage.
“When you consider the very large difference in age, it looks more like this was not a marriage, but like the girl was sold,” Dr. Suhaila Zein al-Abedin of the Saudi National Association for Human Rights said. “The girl’s parents need to be held responsible for this.”
Some groups, such as the HRC, advocate for setting a minimum age for marriage, though they’ve not said what age. The group proposes that anyone younger than 18 who wants to get married should get a court’s consent.
Extremely conservative religious scholars have opposed a law that would govern the age to marry.