French Justice struck a blow against conservative Islam yesterday when an appeals court in Douai reversed an earlier decision to annul a marriage because the bride was not a virgin.

The bridegroom, identified only as Monsieur X, and the bride, Madame Y, were married in the northern town of Mons-en-Baroeul, near Lille, in July 2006. He is a computer programmer in his early 30s. She is a nurse in her early 20s. Both are Muslims of Moroccan origin.

On the wedding night, Monsieur X discovered that Madame Y had lied when she told him she was a virgin. He insisted that the marriage be annulled "because it started with a lie". She initially resisted, but relented because she feared drawn-out legal proceedings.

Monsieur X based his case on article 180 of the civil code, which provides for the annulment of a marriage in the event of "error concerning the person or about the essential qualities of the person".

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