(CNN) — A 70-year-old man has married a 15-year-old girl in Saudi Arabia, human rights workers said Tuesday.
CNN interviewed the man, who said the girl’s parents sold her to him for the equivalent of $20,000. The marriage came to light when the man complained to a local official, saying the girl’s family had taken her back and he’d been ripped off. He refused to provide his name to CNN.
His account is countered by human rights workers looking into the case. They believe there was a fight between the teen and the man, and she ran back to her family.
Her father is believed to be Yemeni, her mother Saudi.
She is from Al-Hurath village in Jizan province, in southwestern Saudi Arabia near the border with Yemen. That’s according to Dr. Hadi Al-Yami, the head of the Asir branch of the Human Rights Commission, a Saudi government supported organization.
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The commission sent an investigator to the courthouse in Al-Hurath, Al-Yami said. The organization is planning to offer the girl as much help as she’s able to receive, particularly legal help in case the courts require her to formally dispute the marriage.
Some groups, such as the HRC, advocate for setting a minimum age for marriage, though they’ve not said what age. The group proposes that anyone younger than 18 who wants to get married should get a court’s consent.
Extremely conservative religious scholars have opposed a law that would govern the age to marry.
Messages on social media reflect frustration with the opposition.
Prominent Egyptian activist Mona Eltahawy tweeted, “It’s only when there’s enough public outrage that we can fight #childmarriage. We are not angry enough to help that 15 y/o & others like her.”
Prominent Yemeni activist NoonArabia tweeted the following:
Other Egyptians took to the Web, with Kareem Bassem tweeting the following:
Dr. Suhaila Zein al-Abedin, a member of the Saudi National Association for Human Rights, also government-backed, is outraged about the case.
“When you consider the very large difference in age, it looks more like this was not a marriage, but like the girl was sold,” al-Abedin said. “The girl’s parents need to be held responsible for this.”