A young woman being sold into marriage.
|TAIF: When Rasha registered for high school a few years ago, she discovered that her estranged father had married her off without her knowledge to a man in his 80s in exchange for a SR30,000 (about $8,000) dowry payment. Now a court has denied her appeals to divorce the man.“The officials at the girls education department discovered that my file had no birth certificate except a temporary one from the hospital where I was born,” Rasha told Al-Riyadh daily in a report published yesterday.
“They asked me to bring my father’s identity card or a printout from the Civil Affairs Directorate. After searching through my papers, they gave me the shock of my life when they told me that my father had married me to an 85-year-old man when I was just 10 years old, and that I am his fourth wife.”
Now the 18-year-old resident of Taif is appealing to the government and the National Society for Human Rights to intervene after a local judge declined to grant the divorce, even after a donor agreed to reimburse the dowry money that the old man was demanding to terminate the marriage.
Rasha’s father and mother split up before she was born, and her grandmother raised her. She says she has never met her father or the man that she was married to without her knowledge.
Islam forbids forced marriages. Though fathers must grant permission for daughters to marry, they cannot force their daughters to marry somebody of their choice. Furthermore, dowry is supposed to be paid to and left under the control of the woman getting married.
Nevertheless, in Rasha’s case the old man demanded a reimbursement of the dowry. Furthermore, the girl learned that her geriatric husband has been collecting social insurance payments since she was 10 after she was placed on his family ID card.
Officials at the Civil Affairs Directorate, which is under the Interior Ministry and in charge of registering the civil status of Saudi citizens, told Rasha to file a suit against her father and the old man in court. The court ordered her to take out newspaper advertisements to find the old man. A tip from somebody who read the announcement led to the discovery that the old man is demanding a refund of the dowry.
“I waited for a year looking for someone who would pay me this amount until Princess Jawhara bint Abdul Aziz took the initiative and donated the entire amount. When I took the money to the judge to complete my divorce procedures, he said the case was closed,” Rasha said.
Shut out of the legal system, Rasha is now appealing to the government and human rights activists to help her out of this predicament.