RELIGION - Ten-year-old girls are ready for marriage, according to Saudi Arabia's most senior cleric.
Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al Sheikh, the country's grand mufti, told Al Hayat newspaper that those saying ten or 12-year-old girls are too young to marry are being 'unfair' to them.
Al Sheikh's comments come at a time when Saudi human rights groups have been pushing the government to put an end to marriages involving the very young and to define a minimum age for marriage.
Though the mufti's pronouncements are respected and provide guidance, the government is not legally bound by them.
On Sunday, the government-run Human Rights Commission in Saudi Arabia condemned marriages of minor girls, saying such marriages are an 'inhumane violation' and rob children of their rights.
The commission's statement followed a ruling by a court in Oneiza in central Saudi Arabia last month that dismissed a divorce petition by the mother of an eight-year-old girl whose father married her off to a man in his 50s.
Newspaper reports said the court argued that the mother did not have the right to file such a case on behalf of her daughter and said that the petition should be filed by the girl when she reaches puberty.
Responding to a question about parents who force their underage daughters to marry, the mufti said: 'We hear a lot about the marriage of underage girls in the media, and we should know that Islamic law has not brought injustice to women.'
The mufti said a good upbringing will make a girl capable of carrying out her duties as a wife and that those who say women should not marry before the age of 25 are following a 'bad path'.