The annulment of a young Muslim couple’s marriage because the bride was not a virgin has caused anger in France, prompting President Sarkozy’s party to call for a change in the law.
The decision by a court in Lille was condemned by the Government, media, feminists and civil rights organisations after it was reported in a legal journal on Thursday. Patrick Devedjian, leader of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement, said it was unacceptable that the law could be used for religious reasons to repudiate a bride. It must be modified “to put an end to this extremely disturbing situation”, he said.
The case, which had previously gone unreported, involved an engineer in his 30s, named as Mr X, who married Ms Y, a student nurse in her 20s, in 2006. The wedding night party was still under way at the family’s home in Roubaix when the groom came down from the bedroom complaining that his bride was not a virgin. He could not display the blood-stained sheet that is traditionally exhibited as proof of the bride’s “purity”.
Mr X went to court the following morning and was granted a annulment on the grounds that his bride had deceived him on “one of the essential elements” of the marriage. In disgrace with both families, she acknowledged that she had led her groom to believe that she was a virgin when she had already had sexual intercourse. She did not oppose the annulment.
Elisabeth Badinter, a philosopher and pioneer of women’s legal rights, said that she felt shame for the French justice system. “The sexuality of women in France is a private and free matter,” she said. “The annulment will just serve to send young Muslim girls running to hospitals to have their hymens restored.”
Although officially discouraged, the 30-minute operation is in increasing demand from Muslim women who fear the consequences of being unable to prove their virginity on their wedding night. Numerous agencies offer services for surgery trips to north African nations. One is offering a “hymenoplasty trip” to Tunis for €1,250 (£980). Internet sites and blogs are full of would-be brides in fear of the test of “the blood-soaked sheet”.
A different stand was taken by Rachida Dati, the Justice Minister, who has Moroccan and Tunisian parents. The law had, she said, protected the bride. “Annulling a marriage is a way of protecting the person who perhaps wants to undo a marriage. I think this young girl wanted . . . to separate quite quickly.
The annulment was defended by Xavier Labbée, the lawyer who acted for Ms Y. The decision was justified by the bride’s deception, not her sexual history, he argued. “Quite simply it is about a lie,” he said. “Religion did not motivate the decision . . . but it is true that religious convictions played a role.”
He has a point about the necessity of truthfulness in marriage. It is also good for husband and wife to share the same values and the young woman will be better off with a young man who does not subscribe to such a rigid code. This is one of the earliest comments - with which few later commenters agree. Women are not chattels to be bought and sold.
If you spend to buy a product of certain criteria, yet you discovered you were robbed and deceived, would not you return the product and ask for refund. Yeah, I bet you all do. Dr Ahmed, London, UK