Times Online – Outrage as French judge annuls Muslim marriage over bride’s virginity lie

President Sarkozy’s party called today for a change in French law after a judge annulled the marriage of a young Muslim couple because the bride was not the virgin that she claimed to be. …

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 was unable to 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 an 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.

Critics ran out of superlatives to condemn what they depicted as a dangerous aberration. Valérie Létard, Minister for Women’s Rights, said that she was “shocked to see that today in France the civil law can be used to diminish the status of women”.

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.”

Well, and that.

The annulment was defended by Xavier Labbée, the lawyer for Ms Y. The decision was justified because of the bride’s deception, not her virginity, he said. “Quite simply it is about a lie,” he said. “The groom realised that his wife had not told him the truth. Religion did not motivate the decision … but it is true that religious convictions played a role.”…

While ministers fulminated against the Lille decision, 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 law is there to protect vulnerable people,” said Ms Dati. Her remarks prompted surprise from rights activists and media commentators.

Liberation newspaper suggested that the virginity argument could have a positive side. Unwilling brides might be able to use it to escape arranged marriages, it said.

Oh that’s nice. It diminishes the status of women and turns their sexuality into a legal barrier to marriage, but at least the girl doesn’t get murdered. Maybe.