http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/11/17/europe/france.php


French appeals court restores marriage in virginity case 

ReutersPublished: November 17, 2008


DOUAI, France: A French appeals court overturned on Monday a ruling by a lower 
tribunal that had annulled the marriage of two Muslims because the bride had 
lied about being a virgin.

The marriage was annulled earlier this year when a court held that the woman 
had lied over what is called in French law an "essential quality," in this case 
her virginity. It ruled that the marriage contract was therefore invalid.

The case sparked outrage in both feminists and human rights activists, who were 
shocked that a court could consider virginity an "essential quality." Some 
politicians also expressed concern that conservative Muslim values were 
creeping into French law.

The couple, a computer specialist in his 30s and a trainee nurse in her 20s, 
were married in 2006 in the northern French city of Lille, but the husband 
rejected his wife after discovering on the wedding night that she was not a 
virgin.

Following the public uproar, the government ordered an appeal. The court in 
Douai ruled that virginity "is not an essential quality in that its absence has 
no repercussion on matrimonial life."

It also rejected the argument that by lying about her past love life, the wife 
had destroyed the mutual confidence needed in a marriage and that this was in 
itself grounds for annulment.

Justice Minister Rachida Dati, the daughter of North African immigrants, 
initially supported the annulment, saying it offered the woman a way out of a 
marriage she may not have wanted. But after a public outcry, she withdrew 
support and ordered state prosecutors to appeal.

The ruling Monday means that the marriage, which neither husband nor wife 
wished to continue, stands. After initially resisting the annulment, the woman 
consented and the marriage was annulled in April.

"We're back to the situation before the first ruling," a court official said.

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