A Swedish court has ruled that a 17-year-old girl's marriage by a Sharia court in the West Bank is invalid in Sweden, overturning a lower court's decision.
The girl, who is now 19-years-old, was married in June 2010 in a Sharia court located in the West Bank town of Hebron, ten days before her 18th birthday, according to Swedish court documents.When she and her husband moved to Sweden they sought to have their marriage registered with the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket).
But the agency denied the couple's application, arguing the marriage couldn't be registered in Sweden because the woman hadn't turned 18 at the time of the wedding.
In 2004, a change to Swedish law meant to prevent child marriages made marriage under the age of 18 illegal, even if the marriage was entered into abroad.
The woman, who lives in Kristianstad in southern Sweden, nevertheless took her case to the administrative court, which ruled in her favour, finding that at the time of the wedding the woman, who was also pregnant, was so close to the age of majority that she was indeed mature enough to understand the significance of marriage.
In arguing her case, the woman also claimed that her actual wedding had taken place after she turned 18, but that she had mistakenly filled in the date prior to her 18th birthday when she and her husband became engaged and entered in a contract "in accordance with Islamic tradition".
A court of appeal also ruled in favour of the woman, but after the Tax Agency appealed the case further, Sweden's Supreme Administrative Court (Högsta förvaltningsdomstolen) struck down the lower court's decision, ruling that the woman's marriage was invalid in Sweden.
"For the registration of a foreign marriage to occur, it must be made clear in the application that the conditions for registration have been fulfilled," the court wrote in its decision.
"In this case, it was clear from the application that the conditions for registration were lacking because XX hadn't turned 18 at the time of the marriage."
As the court found no other extenuating circumstances to justify the marriage's registration, it ruled that the Tax Agency was justified in rejecting the woman's application that her marriage be registered in Sweden.