The saying “age does not matter” was actualized in a recent wedding in Saudi Arabia as a 70-ear-old man married a 15-year-old girl. However, the marriage is short-lived as the old man reportedly paid for their marriage.
The man who refused to give his name to CNN said he paid a dowry equivalent of USD 20,000 to the parents of the girl. While there is no law in Saudi Arabia setting a minimum age for marriage, human rights advocates claim that there is a high possibility that the girl was sold if there was a huge difference in age between the husband and wife.
Initially, the marriage was kept secret from the authorities. It then came out when the man complained to a local official that his wife left him and returned to her parents, claiming that he was ripped off for the dowry he paid to her wife’s parents. During the CNN interview, he also claimed that the girl was already 25 years old and that she was at the right age to make decisions on her own.
“She is not 15 as everybody claims. She’s 25 years old and she’s mature enough to make her own decisions… I was fooled by the girl’s family,” the 70-year-old man said.
Following the return of her wife to her parents, the man demanded to either return his money or give his wife back. However, the girl’s parents said they cannot return their daughter and that all the money paid for dowry was already spent. This prompted the man to bring the case to court.
“I did not want the dowry money back, and I still want my wife to come home. I am going to take the case to a court this week to rule on the conspiracy by the family to take my money. My wife’s family have now taken her out to Riyadh so that I cannot reach her,” the old man said.
After several hearings, the court ruled to end their marriage and demanded the parents to give the dowry back. Despite the court’s decision for divorce, the man reiterated that the marriage was still intact since the decision came from the leader of the tribe and not from an official judge.
The 15-year-old girl is from Al-Hurath village in Jizan province, in southwestern Saudi Arabia near the border with Yemen. She is believed to have a Yemeni father and Saudian mother.
Forced marriages are rampant in the Middle East, parts of South Asia, East Asia and Africa. Most women who marry younger in age are more likely to be dominated by their husbands. They usually lack education and become illiterate as they tend to drop out of school shortly before they get married.