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70-year-old man marries 15-year-old in Saudi Arabia

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 - 10:58am

(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 $3,000. The marriage came to light when the man filed a court complaint, 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 province in Jizan, the southern part of Saudi Arabia near the border with Yemen, according to Dr. Hadi Al-Yami, the head of the Asir branch of the Human Rights Commission. The commission is supported by the Saudi government.

The organization sent an investigator to the courthouse in Al-Hurath where the man filed his complaint, 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.

There is no law stipulating a minimum age for marriage in Saudi Arabia, though there has been a push in recent years to pass a law making the minimum age 18. Religious groups have generally opposed the change.

Messages on social media reflect frustration, and are trending at hashtag #childmarriage.

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, "#ChildMarriage is a violation of human rights http://www.humanrightsdefence.org/child-marriage-as-an-human-rights-issu... ... #RunAwayBride #PTs."

Other Egyptians took to the Web.

Kareem Bassem tweeted, "#ChildMarriage is a result of dehumanizing female humans and degrading them to 'treats' in alleged paradise. Fight dehumanization!"

Dr. Suhaila Zein al-Abedin, a member of the Saudi National Association for Human Rights, 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."

-- CNN's Salma Abdelaziz contributed to this report.

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