French minister asks for appeal in virginity case

2/06/2008 - 19:48

PARIS (Reuters) - France's Justice Minister Rachida Dati formally asked the public prosecutor's office on Monday to appeal a court ruling which annulled the union of two Muslims because the wife had lied about being a virgin.

Heated debate over French marriage laws erupted after thenational press reported last week on the verdict, which washanded down by a court in the northern city of Lille in April.

Politicians, feminists and human rights activists havedenounced the court's ruling as an affront to the legalequality of men and women and a violation of a woman's privacy.

"The annulment of a marriage by the court in Lille hassparked lively social debate. This private affair goes beyondthe relations between two people and concerns all citizens ofour country, especially women," the justice ministry said.

Dati has lodged a request for the public prosecutor'soffice to file an appeal against the court's judgement, theministry said in a statement.

In an online interview broadcast by the Figaro newspaper,Prime Minister Francois Fillon said that while he understoodthe reason behind the judge's decision, the case merited anappeal.

"I think it is normal in such circumstances to request anew ruling," he said, adding that the country's highest courtneeded to spell out that the verdict does not set a precedent.

Concerns about traditional Muslim views creeping intosecular French law has also shrouded debate over the case.

The husband's lawyer has denied that religion had anythingto do with the verdict. The ruling hinged on a legal articlesaying an annulment could be sought if there was an errorconcerning "essential qualities" of one of the spouses.(Reporting by Laure Bretton and Thierry Leveque; editing byBrian Rohan and Ibon Villelabeitia)

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