Religion

Broken Contracts, Broken Hearts

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A student in her 20s and an engineer in his 30s marry in France. They are Muslim. It turns out that she is not a virgin and, since the marriage agreement was based on "an error in the essential qualities of the bride,"–forbidden under the language of Article 180 of the Civil Code–the court agrees to annul the marriage.

Is this ruling:

1) "a real fatwa against the emancipation and liberty of women," as Urban Affairs Minister Fadela Amara says.

or is it

2) a reasonable outcome in a contract dispute?

I'm inclined to favor the latter, especially since the possibility of doing a decent, peaceable, Western thing, like getting a marriage annulled for misrepresentation if the bride fails to deliver a bloodstained sheet, might forestall more grisly extra-judicial solutions, like honor killing.

The woman does not want an appeal:

"I don't know who's trying to think in my place. I didn't ask for anything. … I wasn't the one who asked for the media attention, for people to talk about it, and for this to last so long."

For his part, the husband says it wasn't the sex, it was the lying.

Discuss.

Via alert reader Mark 

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  1. Why anyone would want a virgin is beyond me.

  2. I’m pretty sure in this case he’s supposed to kill her for honor reasons, so that basically makes the argument moot.

  3. Katherine, you failed on the headline, which should read “Broken Hymens, Broken Hearts”.

  4. He should have lost just for thinking that there was a virigin in France.

  5. I’m inclined to favor the latter

    I’m not. The guy could have easily done the due diligence before entering the contract.

    the husband says it wasn’t the sex, it was the lying.

    Welcome to Planet Earth, douchebag!

  6. Very simple, virgins have nothing to go by. They can’t tell if someone is bad in bad or is “inadequate.” Desiring a virgin means you’re probably very insecure about your sexuality.

  7. Why are we talking about this? It appears that both parties are satisfied with the outcome; nobody has suffered permanent or irreparable harm.

    Oh, right- the nannies and busybodies don’t believe these two people are capable of acting in their own self-interest.

  8. What’s the downside to anyone of him getting the annulment?

    I also would be interested to know what other historical examples of “error[s] in the essential qualities of the bride” have led to annulments being granted in the past. Is this some obscure section of code not invoked for 100 years, or ar annulments regularly granted on less culturally provocative bases?

  9. Why anyone would want a virgin is beyond me.

    I have no friggin’ idea.. The idiotic preoccupation with female virginity is not restricted to Muslims. I’ve met numerous Christians that think it is somehow very important.

    I like a woman who knows how to play the sexual game. I’m somewhat jaded now, but I have been taught some things by partners that were kinda neat.

    If she asserted that she was a virgin, it is a violation of contract and the marriage should be annulled if the groom immediately requests it. If he merely assumed she was a clumsy, inexperienced virgin, tough luck buddy. Divorce court for you and watch your assets.

  10. I’m not. The guy could have easily done the due diligence before entering the contract.

    How? Inspecting the package prior to signing the contract? I suspect that package inspection is just as taboo as virgin defiling.

  11. This could actually fly in the US if a court ruled the deception was a material fraud affecting the essentials of the marriage. He would have to convince the court that he would not have married her had he known and that her virginity was an essential element of the marriage.

    Just for fun, here are a couple other reasons for an annulment (at least in VA):
    One party had been a prostitute and didn’t tell the other party.
    Felony conviction of which the other was not informed.
    Wife pregnant by another or husband had impregnated another in the last 10 months without telling the other.

    Isn’t studying for the bar exam fun?

    P.S. Invisible finger…what, exactly, would due diligence have been?

  12. Is this outcome worse, or more degrading to her human dignity, than if she had felt compelled to go to a plastic surgeon for “reconstructive surgery” in order to successfully dupe the deluded bozo?

  13. I think this is good. A contract was written, it was broken, the courts invalidated it.

  14. I’ve ruined a few virgins in my day, and not only do they suck in bed, but they get all clingy and cry-y later. No more of that for this kid.

  15. I’ve ruined a few virgins in my day

    What, you were so bad they became lesbians or something? Thanks a lot, jerk.

  16. Think Black Dahlia.

  17. This is yet one more example of how our society oppresses women by restricting their sexual freedom!

  18. Crazy-ass religion: creating atheists since 3000 B.C.

  19. There is obviously a market value to virginity. This is plainly an “economic” merger, and not a marriage for love. Fraud was easily proven. No one died in the process. French legal system, For the win!

    If he wants an unchewed piece of gum as opposed to one scrapped off from under a desk, that’s his business.

  20. …they get all clingy and cry-y later

    Cold hearted snake. You’re right to call yourself “kid”.

  21. Think Black Dahlia.

    OK, you have redeemed yourself. However, a Dario Argento reference would have been better.

  22. Cold hearted snake.

    Look into his eyes!
    UH OH!
    He’s been telling lies!

  23. I don’t get it. Both people involved seem fine with the annulment. Why should anyone else care?

  24. Yet again a case where people went running to the government for a “who you can/can’t do license” and it results in a mucky ending.

    Government has no place in romantic relationships.

  25. Break a Deal. Spin the Wheel.

  26. The guy could have easily done the due diligence before entering the contract.

    He probably has, the article doesn’t mention whether he’s a virgin.

  27. A couple of strange quotes from the FA:

    “In a democratic and secular country, we cannot consider virginity as an essential quality of marriage,” said an expert on French secularism, Jacqueline Costa-Lascoux.

    [rector of the Paris Mosque, Dalil Boubakeur] likened the court decision to “equating marriage with a commercial transaction.”

    Different people, but both French, ostensibly speaking from a sense of shared French values.

    My question is, absent the covenant before God (this is a secular society), what is civil marriage but a commercial transaction?

  28. Why anyone would want a virgin is beyond me.

    You can finger paint afterwards…

  29. Wow, the French do actually get something right now and then. How individual people react to this ruling says a lot about them.

    We will never restore fairness to the institution of marriage in this country (USA) until we recognize it’s true nature as that of being a business deal.

    As it stands in the U.S. today, marriage is the only type of contract that can be broken unilaterally by one of the parties, at will and for no reason. It is only fair and reasonable that each party be held accountable for misrepresentation of any defects that exist when the contract is entered.

  30. Hey look, Reason has an ad for more Muslim (Virgin?) Brides – clever!

  31. You’re better off without him.

  32. Okay, the muslima.com ads are kinda creepy.

    As to the topic at hand. If she stated she was, and she wasn’t then the contract (marriage) should be void. Not a big issue really.

    It’s not about her “right” to have sex, etc., ad nauseum. It’s about her lying about it in a contract.

    Virgins are not worth the work, been there, done that. The “extra” tightness doesn’t last long, they don’t know what they like or how to please a man and it’s hard as hell to scrape them off aftewards.

  33. an engineer in his 30s

    at least one of them was a virgin.

    (and, as always, my favorite part of these stories is the google adsense; “Beautiful muslim singles for matrimony, Browse photos for free!”

  34. As someone who spent years in various European countries (as a young teen) you got to go down to about 12 years old to find a virgin there.

  35. you got to go down to about 12 years old to find a virgin there

    So, what you are saying is that the plot of Once Bitten is based on a true story?

  36. I personally understand why people would want to marry or to marry as a virgin (although I don’t quite feel that way myself). That’s part of why marriage should be treated like a contract – people have different views about what is important, and it should reflect them. I also can see being way more upset about the lie than the fact that someone isn’t a virgin – especially if you think marriage is a big deal, finding out that you’ve been lied to about something you find even somewhat important is a pretty big blow.

    Seems like a pretty good reason to void it, personally. I have no idea about french laws, but it seems like they should write up individual marriage contracts to make things less fuzzy, so people who care and don’t care about things like this do whatever they want.

  37. The idiotic preoccupation with female virginity is not restricted to Muslims.

    It sure isn’t/wasn’t. Just read The Song of Ice and Fire. It’s all about the virgins in both the medieval Euro-like and the medieval Asia-like cultures.

    As for the “contract”, unless hubby pulls out a piece of paper with her signature under the words “I am a virgin”, I call bullshit. Obviously, this is a concession to cultural expectations. If she lied about doing windows, would he get the annulment??

  38. “If she lied about doing windows, would he get the annulment??”

    If it were in the contract, and I am the judge yes he would.

  39. I don’t get the French reaction to this.

    In fact, I am going to go out on a limb and assert that if it wasn’t a Muslim couple, the outrage would be non-existent. The reaction of the people bothered by this outcome seem to completely ignore the fact that there was in fact deception that occurred, and it is quite possible that the marriage would have never happened if the truth were known.

    Instead they seem to be focusing only on the type of fraud (virginity) and seem to be upset that the ruling doesn’t contradict Muslim beliefs.
    How else do you interpret the comments that focus only on”secularism” and judgment about whether virginity should be an issue? Religion really has no bearing on a case like this. It’s a question of fraud, not a question of religous beliefs.

    I think this was a reasonable outcome. Even in france, they mention other cases where a wife used to be a prostitute and didn’t disclose it and had the marriage annulled — why no outrage over that? It’s all fraud that may make someone think twice about marrying someone.

  40. It sure isn’t/wasn’t. Just read The Song of Ice and Fire. It’s all about the virgins in both the medieval Euro-like and the medieval Asia-like cultures.

    While I don’t disagree with you, trotting out an (excellent) series of fantasy novels to make your point doesn’t seem too compelling.

  41. Everybody seems to accept the proposition that there is fraud involved. Has anyone actually read and reviewed a written contract wherein the former wife covenanted that she was a virgin? That the husband’s obligations under the contract hinge upon a condition precedent, namely that the wife be a virgin?

    I would not put too much stock in the findings of the judge as we all know that judges are not exactly intellectual giants as thery are nothing more than hacks feeding off of what others produce. Judges are almost universally captive to the state and merit respect only when they embrace natural rights, the primacy of the individual over “society” and reject each and every socialist, progressive and collectivist statute, rule, regulation, rationale and judicial doctrine.

  42. joe made the best point in this thread.

  43. Everybody seems to be missing the most fundamental point: Why should the state be involved in matters of marriage, at all?

    Is there one word in the United States constitution that supports the proposition that the state has a role in the institution of marriage? Of course not. Of course, many of our state constitutions do provide for state involvement in marriage-but, my associational and property rights, guaranteed by the federal constitution, trump the powers granted to a given state in that state’s constitution concerning marriage.

  44. Everybody seems to be missing the most fundamental point: Why should the state be involved in matters of marriage, at all?

    Nobody’s missing that point. It’s been discussed around here ad nauseum to the point where it’s a given.

  45. Everybody seems to accept the proposition that there is fraud involved. Has anyone actually read and reviewed a written contract wherein the former wife covenanted that she was a virgin?

    Oral misrepresentation can be fraudulent too, you know.

    Hey, if she lied about it, and it was important to him, why shoudn’t he be able to annul?

    Not to be too crass, but if a car dealer sold you a used car, told you it had never been in an accident, and you found out it had, wouldn’t that be fraud? Shouldn’t you have some legal remedy?

  46. “Everybody seems to accept the proposition that there is fraud involved. Has anyone actually read and reviewed a written contract wherein the former wife covenanted that she was a virgin?”

    Verbal contracts are binding they are just hard to prove. My guess is she admitted she lied.

    Paternity fraud is a real issue. Genetically a certain percent of women are predisposed to being promiscuious. I can certainly understand why this man would take the position he did but then I am not nearly as judgmental as a lot of the posters on this thread seem to be.

  47. Genetically a certain percent of women are predisposed to being promiscuous.

    Any exterior physical indicators on this particular phenotype?

  48. Hugh,

    Yes, they have vaginas.

  49. Government has no place in romantic relationships.

    Where’s the evidence this was a romantic relationship? All the article says is that it was an attempted marriage.

    Has anyone actually read and reviewed a written contract wherein the former wife covenanted that she was a virgin?

    I’ve never actually read one, but I understand that Orthodox Jewish wedding contracts often include such representations.

  50. I have been with two virgins. One was real and we eventually changed her status. The other, in time, admitted that a boyfriend’s penis had been inserted into her vagina when she was sixteen, but for some reason, for her, that simply didn’t count (maybe it was expunged from her record when she turned eighteen, because she had remained celibate from the date of initial entry. Pretty odd if you ask me.

  51. The problem here isn’t that the court would annul the marriage for some misrepresentation (if that in fact occurred), it’s that it seems from the quote (I haven’t RTFA) to be saying that non-virginity is prima facie evidence of misrepresentation. What else could the court mean when it says there was “an error in the essential qualities of the bride”? It doesn’t say “she misrepresented her sexual history to the groom” it just finds her lacking in some “essential qualities.” That finding is absurd and is the crux of the problem here.

    To be clear, if she represented to him that she was a virgin when she wasn’t then there is nothing wrong with the court finding that such a misrepresentation induced the groom to enter into the contract when he otherwise would not have and voiding the contract for that reason. There is something terribly wrong with the court presuming the mere fact of female non-virginity is dispositive.

  52. Any exterior physical indicators on this particular phenotype?

    Tattoos? Cigarettes?

  53. Genetically a certain percent of women are predisposed to being promiscuious.

    That is a problem — whatever that percent is, it is surely much smaller than the 100% of men so predisposed, creating a shortage.

  54. Emergency room doctors I have spoken with in Jordan say it isn’t uncommon for an angry groom and a teary bride to show up in the ER on their wedding night, with the groom complaining that there was no blood and thus the bride wasn’t a virgin, and the virgin professing her virtue. Some virgins simply don’t bleed the first time. So who ruled the woman wasn’t a virgin?

    I think this is a very slippery slope and a bad precedent, even if both parties in this case are copacetic with the ruling.

    And, by the way, the ruling need not necessarily have any bearing on whether the woman is now at risk for a dishonor killing.

    Ellen R. Sheeley, Author
    “Reclaiming Honor in Jordan”
    http://www.redroom.com/author/ellen-r-sheeley

  55. Warty | June 5, 2008, 10:09am | #

    Why anyone would want a virgin is beyond me.

    Why don’t you ask the person who first picked you?

  56. a reasonable outcome in a contract dispute?

    I say this one, but it might bear pointing out that I also believe women and men should be free to file civil suits against adulterous spouses for breach of contract and that men who marry due to cuckolding should be free to sue for fraud (actual damages, not punitive).

    Why someone would want to marry a virgin in the first place, however, is completely and utterly beyond my powers of comprehension.

  57. Scptt66-

    Some verbal contracts are enforceable. Some. There is a little legal phenomenon called the statute of frauds-in american and english law. I don’t know about the frenchies.

    R C Dean-

    Did the used car dealership disclaim all warranties, as is typical? If the answer is yes, then I might lose.

    Sure, I agree that one should have a legal remedy where one has been defrauded. I just don’t think that the remedy should be exclusively dispensed by a court of the state. In other words, the notion that the administration of justice should be monopolized by the state is just so much communist clap trap. Backwards. Loserville. Mr. Rothbard would agree with me.

  58. Some verbal contracts are enforceable. Some. There is a little legal phenomenon called the statute of frauds-in american and english law.

    Contracts “in consideration of marriage” are subject to the statute of frauds, which is really a rule of evidence (namely, the defendant can require the plaintiff to produce a written contract before the alleged contract can be enforced).

    I don’t think it would really apply in this case, though, which seeks nullification of the contract. Someone trying to prevent nullification of a contract is really helped by claiming that “I can’t be bound to that contract unless it is in writing.” The plaintiff would simply reply “You’re right, its not in writing, and therefore it is, you guessed it, unenforceable and therefor null and void.”

    Did the used car dealership disclaim all warranties, as is typical?

    Even if they did, that is not necessarily a defense to a claim of fraud in the inducement of the contract. The buyer would have to have actual or constructive knowledge of the underlying facts.

  59. As it stands in the U.S. today, marriage is the only type of contract that can be broken unilaterally by one of the parties, at will and for no reason. It is only fair and reasonable that each party be held accountable for misrepresentation of any defects that exist when the contract is entered.

    Actually, all contracts can be broken unilaterally at will and for no reason. That the wronged party may pursue a remedy does not mean that the contract may not be broken. Contract law in fact encourages “efficient” breaches of contract.

  60. jtuf | June 5, 2008, 2:48pm | #
    Warty | June 5, 2008, 10:09am | #

    Why anyone would want a virgin is beyond me.

    Why don’t you ask the person who first picked you?

    She didn’t know. And she was drunk. Ah, l’amour…

  61. As it stands in the U.S. today, marriage is the only type of contract that can be broken unilaterally by one of the parties, at will and for no reason.

    Many Employment agreements can be terminated by either party, with or without cause, without the other party being able to collect any damages. The only exceptions are

    (1) employment agreements that have a specified term or damages clause (typically only big-shot executives have these) and

    (2) terminating someone for the wrong reasons (racial discrimination, etc.) in which case the remedy isn’t really a matter of contract or law, but is more of a civil rights remedy.

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