TAIF – The controversial divorce case of two minor girls trapped in “an invalid trade-off marriage” to two septuagenarian men goes to court here on Saturday.In parts of the Arab world, women seem to be treated about as well as cattle, and not as well as camels.
The mothers of the two girls, Shaikha 16, and Abeer 11, have filed for divorce on the grounds that the minors were forced into illegal wedlock and were victims of domestic violence.
The case has sparked widespread debate in Saudi society with religious scholars expressing their views as well.
Renowned Saudi scholar Sheikh Abudlmohsin Al-Obaikan has opined that the girls should be granted divorce and the two men severely punished for allegedly trading off the girls in an “exchange marriage” of their daughters without any dowry or wedding ceremony.
The Sheikh’s opinion is also based on evidence that in both cases the marriage did not have the full consent of the minors.
However, the marriage contractor has refuted the charge that the girls were illegally married off. “The contract is perfectly legitimate as it satisfies all the legal pillars of an Islamic marriage including the consent of the two brides and the payment of their dowries,” the marriage contractor said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The two guardians received SR50,000 and SR45,000,” as dowry, he said.
In Islam, a marriage is valid only if both the bride and her guardian fully accept it. Moreover, the dowry should be handed over the bride’s guardian in hard cash and must be seen by the marriage witnesses and guests.
Sheikh Obaikan’s conclusion that the two marriages were illegal is based on reports that the two girls were threatened into marriage by their fathers.
In Yanbu, while Shaikha was doing her pre-marital test, she called her divorced mother, who she had not seen for 10 years, to save her from what she said was a forced marriage.
Shaikha’s mother acted quickly and complained to the authorities, including the National Human Rights Society (NHRS).
After signing the marriage contract, the two couples went to Taif for the honeymoon. There, Shaikha tried to commit suicide to escape marriage to a 75-year-old man and was admitted to King Faisal Hospital in the city. She was subsequently taken to a social care house as the authorities started to investigate the case.
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