U.N. decries 8-year-old girl's marriage

April 14, 2009 at 3:14 PM

UNITED NATIONS, April 14 (UPI) -- The director of the U.N. Children's Fund says the marriage of an 8-year old Saudi Arabian girl to a 47-year-old man violates the girl's rights.

Ann Veneman, executive director of UNICEF, told CNN the arranged marriage, which has twice been ruled legal by a Saudi judge, is wrong even though it may deemed legal.

"Irrespective of circumstances or the legal framework, the marriage of a child is a violation of that child's rights," Veneman told the U.S. broadcaster. "Consent cannot be free and full when either party to a marriage is too young to make an informed decision."

The judge, Sheikh Habib Habib, ruled for the second time Saturday in Onaiza that the girl's marriage to a friend of her father's was legal and binding. He said the child wife could file for divorce once she reached puberty, CNN reported.

An unnamed relative of the girl told the broadcaster that Habib, who first refused to annul the marriage last year, reconsidered the case upon the girl's mother's appeal. The mother's attorney, Abdullah Jutaili, said the girl's father arranged the marriage with his "close friend" to pay off a monetary debt.

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