French Appeals Court Restores Marriage in Virginity Case

A French appeals court in Douai has overturned a lower tribunal of Lille from April 1st 2008 that had annulled the marriage of two Muslims because the bride misrepresented her virginity. The marriage was annulled when the court held that the woman had lied over what was considered “an essential quality,” and therein the marriage contract was invalid.

In the wake of outrage expressed by feminists and human rights activists, the court ruled that virginity “is not an essential quality in that its absence has no repercussion on matrimonial life.” Others expressed concern that the original ruling was an affront to France’s fiercely protected secularism. In a petition sent to French Justice Minister Rachida Dati in June, 150 members of the European Parliament said an annulment in the case would “only comfort fundamentalists in their archaic fight whilst the main barrier against this fanaticism should precisely be the law.”

The new ruling means that the marriage, which neither husband nor wife wishes to continue, stands. A court official aptly noted, “We’re back to the situation before the first ruling.”

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International Herald Tribune

Le Figaro

Libération

IslamOnline.net

The Globe and Mail

The National Post

French Court Announces that Lie About Virginity Should Not Annul Marriage

French state prosecutors argued on Monday that a court decision to annul a Muslim couple’s marriage because the woman lied about her virginity is discriminatory against women and should be overturned. A court in Douai annulled the 2006 marriage in April 2008 because the husband discovered on their wedding night that the wife had lied about her virginity. The lower court based its decision on an article of the French Civil Code that states that a spouse can seek an annulment if the partner has misrepresented his or her “essential qualities.” The decision made no reference to Islam.
Eric Vaillant, a spokesperson for the Douai appeals court has responded that making a woman’s virginity a condition of marriage “would be discriminatory because it would harm the principles of equality between men and women.” State prosecutors said they were not against allowing the split if it were possible to replace the “discriminatory motive” of loss of virginity with a more general one, such as mistaken identity. A verdict in the appeals case is expected on 17 November 2008.

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International Herald Tribune

Islam Pluriel

The National Post

French Court Blocks Decision to Annul Marriage Over Virginity

A French appeals court has blocked the decision of a lower court to annul a marriage because the bride was not a virgin, as she had claimed prior to the marriage. The marriage will thus remain legal until September 22, when the same court will hear arguments. Article 180 of the Civil Code defines the possibility of annulment if one of the parties has misrepresented the essential qualities of themselves, without defining them. A poll released by Le Figaro claimed that 73% of the French who responded were shocked by the original ruling. The poll involved 968 people; no margin of error was included.