Sunday, November 23, 2008

Still married after all these proceedings

The other shoe has finally dropped: the Court of Appeals in Douai (France) has ruled that the couple whose marriage was annulled because the bride was not a virgin is still married. As you may recall, the young bride on her wedding night admitted she was not a virgin and was taken back to her parents by her displeased father-in-law and husband, who then won an annulment on the grounds that he had made a mistake as to the bride's "essential qualities." Initially Rachida Dati (left), the Minister of Justice who herself had had an early marriage annuled, defended the annulment as protecting the parties by avoiding divorce, as divorced Muslim women are frowned upon. While protecting the parties interests is indeed one of law's essential functions, many of us quibble with the lower court's acceptance of virginity as an essential bridal quality. The Court of Appeals agrees with us:
a lie that does not concern an essential quality is not a valid basis for annuling a marriage...This is particularly true when the alleged lie concerns the past love life of the future wife and her virginity, which is not an essential quality as its absence has no effect on married life.
I must confess this ruling did not surprise me, given all the hoopla. But I've just been teaching my Introduction to Law students about judicial independence and impartiality and equality before the law and realize that aside from any hoopla or disagreement as to whether or not virginity is an essential bridal quality, there is an issue of equality before the law buried in this case: what non-Muslim couple would be allowed to annul their marriage on such grounds? Indeed, the report of the appellate judgment, unlike reports of the annulment, indicates not that both parties requested the annulment, but that the "roughly 20-year-old" bride only gave in to her "roughly 30-year-old" husband's request for fear of a long, drawn out legal proceeding. Were divorce as easy (ie lawyer/judge-free) in France as it is elsewhere, the bride's interests would have been much better protected than Dati thought they were by annulment on retrograde grounds. As it is, the girl who feared long proceedings is now apparently going to sue for atteinte à la dignité (damage to her dignity).

1 comment:

Unknown said...

and i wonder if the groom was a virgin.

it's sickening how our society equates a girl's sexual history with her "purity," "innocence" and overall character. a woman is not any less of a woman whether she is a virgin or not. marriage is not based on a flimsy piece of skin in the vagina, so men should get over this virgin complex and stop equating the worth of a woman with the existence of her hymen.