The recent marriage of a 90-year-old Saudi man to a 15-year-old girl has sparked condemnation from human rights and social media activists in the kingdom.
On Twitter especially, activists criticized the parents of the girl for giving her to a man decades older than her.
In an interview, the groom insisted that his marriage was “legal and correct,” and that he paid a $17,500 (SAR 65,000) dowry to marry the girl, who is the daughter of a Yemeni father and Saudi mother.
The 90-year-old told the story of his first night with the bride. He said she entered the bedroom before him, and she locked the door from inside so he could not enter. This, he said, made him “suspicious about some kind of conspiracy” by the girl and her mother.
He vowed to sue his in-laws to give him back the girl or return him the expensive dowry.
Close friends of the bride’s family said she was frightened on the wedding night, and locked herself in the room for two successive days before fleeing back to her parents’ home.
The member of the Saudi National Association for Human Rights (NSHR), Suhaila Zein al-Abedin, urged authorities to intervene “as soon as possible to save this child from tragedy.”
Abedin noted that marriage in Islam must be based on mutual consent, and this was not satisfied, as demonstrated by the girl’s move to lock herself in the room.
She said the girl’s parents were also to be held responsible for marrying their daughter to a man the age of her great grandfather.
Abedin urged the establishment of a minimum age of 18 for marrying girls, saying this would pave the way for punishing violators, according to a report by al-Hayat newspaper.
Jamal al-Toueiki, a psychologist, said forced marriage may subject girls to abuse and violence, and this could lead to their suicide if nothing is done to save them.