Outcry after French court rules on virginity


PARIS - The bride said she was a virgin. When her new husband discovered that was a lie, he went to court to annul the marriage—and a French judge agreed.

The ruling ending the Muslim couple's union has stunned France and raised concerns the country's much-cherished secular values are losing ground to religious traditions from its fast-growing immigrant communities.

The decision also exposed the silent shame borne by some Muslim women who transgress long-held religious dictates demanding proof of virginity on the wedding night.

In its ruling, the court concluded the woman had misrepresented herself as a virgin and that, in this particular marriage, virginity was a prerequisite.

But in treating the case as a breach of contract, the ruling was decried by critics who said it undermined decades of progress in women's rights. Marriage, they said, was reduced to the status of a commercial transaction in which women could be discarded by husbands claiming to have discovered hidden defects in them.

The court decision "is a real fatwa against the emancipation and liberty of women. We are returning to the past," said Urban Affairs Minister Fadela Amara, the daughter of immigrants from Muslim North Africa, using the Arabic term for a religious decree.

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