12-Year-Old Saudi Girl Wins Divorce From Husband, 80
In exchange for a dowry of about $22,000, the girl, now 12, was forced to marry her father's cousin last year. After the girl protested her marriage, her case generated interest in the foreign press, and the state-run Human Rights Commission agreed to represent her in court proceedings in the town of Buraidah.
In recent days, however, the girl and her family are said to have come to an agreement, allowing for a privately settled divorce.
Set up in 2005 by King Abdullah, the Human Rights Commission has attempted to improve conditions for women in a nation where they are forbidden to drive, vote or move freely in public without a male escort.
The Human Rights Commission said it would use this case to attempt to establish a minimum age for marriage of 16. Comprising medical experts, child psychologists, social workers and scholars in Islamic law, three committees have been set up to debate the matter, the London Times reported.
"The main aim is to not allow cases like this to happen again," Alanoud al-Hejailan, a lawyer with Human Rights Commission, told the Times. "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."
Part of the difficulty in imposing marriage age restrictions in this strictly religious society is attributable to the fact that Islam's most revered figure, the Prophet Muhammad, himself wed a 9-year-old girl.
In January, however, Sheikh Abdullah al-Manie, a senior Saudi cleric, said Muhammad's 7th-century marriage could not be used as justification for today's child marriages, the Indian Express reported.