The annulment of a young Muslim couple’s marriage because the bride was not a virgin has caused anger in France, prompting President Sarkozy’s party to call for a change in the law.
The decision by a court in Lille was condemned by the government, media, feminists and civil rights organizations after it was reported in a legal journal on Thursday.
The case, which had previously gone unreported, involved an engineer in his 30s, named only 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 could not display the blood-stained sheet that is traditionally exhibited as proof of the bride’s “purity.”
The husband 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. The woman then 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”.
Requests for annulments have risen sharply to nearly 2,000 a year in France, but experts could recall no case involving non-virginity.