Page last updated at 19:51 GMT, Tuesday, 3 June 2008 20:51 UK

France virgin case couple 'angry'

By Frances Harrison
BBC Religious affairs correspondent

French justice ministry, file pic
The government fears the ruling could set a worrying legal precedent

A French Muslim couple have opposed a government decision to contest a court ruling annulling their marriage because the bride lied about being a virgin.

Her lawyer has said she accepts the judgement of a court in Lille and simply wants to get on with her life.

The court granted the man's request for an annulment after ruling he had been tricked into the marriage.

It sparked an emotional debate and angered feminists who said it amounted to a fatwa against women's liberty.

According to media reports, the husband, an engineer in his thirties, married the trainee nurse in the summer of 2006, having been assured by her that she had never previously had a boyfriend.

Under the French civil code, a marriage can be annulled if a spouse has lied about an "essential quality" of the relationship.


Lawyers for the couple say both their clients have accepted the court decision to annul their marriage and they are unhappy about the emotional public debate their case has triggered.

She told me: 'I refuse this. I don't agree with this appeal... I don't know who decided that they would think for me - I haven't asked for anything'
Charles-Edouard Mauger
Lawyer for the wife

Some women ministers in the French government have called the court's ruling "a real fatwa against the emancipation of women" and "a ruling handed down in Kandahar".

Feminists argue the decision is unfair because a woman would not be able to cancel her marriage if she thought her husband was not a virgin.

Critics have also asked if the judge would have ruled the same way if the marriage was not between two Muslims.

But a lawyer for the husband has said the ruling had nothing to do with religion - but rather breach of contract, because the bride had lied about what the husband saw as an essential quality in his wife.

Now the French government has decided to ask the public prosecutor to appeal against the decision lest it set a precedent where people can legally insist on virginity as a requirement for marriage.

The only problem is the wife is not happy about this. Indeed, her lawyer says she is furious that someone else is making decisions on her behalf.

And the husband's lawyer has complained the government has contradicted its earlier position because of "uproar in the media".

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