A court in Saudi Arabia has annulled a marriage between an 84-year-old man and a 15-year-old girl, saying that it was illegal.
Saudi Al Shimmari, the court judge in Abu Arish in the southern region of Jazan also referred the officer who performed the marriage last week to the prosecution where he will be heard on Sunday, Saudi daily Makkah reported.
The judge said that the officer was summoned to make sure that no marriages where the age difference between the bride and the groom was huge were performed by anyone.
The case came to light after the groom said he wanted to divorce his bride after she refused to consummate the marriage. He also insisted on getting back the SR90,000 ($24,000) he had offered her father as the marriage dowry.
According to the report, the bride’s father was suffering from psychological disorders.
Online readers expressed dismay over the case and called for strong action against the groom, the father and the marriage officer.
They singled out the octogenarian for his abuse and shamed him for using his money to take advantage of the situation and the possible need by the father for funds.
Several users lauded the young girl’s courage for refusing the groom whom they called her “grandfather.”
Underage marriages, particularly in non-urban areas, are a major issue in Saudi society, despite the fact that brides have to be at least 16 years old to be officially married and exceptions have to be formally authorised by courts.
Several traditional families in remote areas do not seem to feel obliged to abide by the ruling and despite campaigns by lawyers and human rights activists to curb the phenomenon, they refuse to change their mindset regarding the early marriage of their girls on social, religious and cultural grounds.