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The annulment of a young Muslim couple's marriage because the bride was not a virgin has caused anger in France, prompting President Sarkozy's party to call for a change in the law.

The decision by a court in Lille was condemned by the Government, media, feminists and civil rights organisations after it was reported in a legal journal on Thursday. Patrick Devedjian, leader of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement, said it was unacceptable that the law could be used for religious reasons to repudiate a bride. It must be modified "to put an end to this extremely disturbing situation", he said.

The case, which had previously gone unreported, involved an engineer in his 30s, named as Mr X, who married Ms Y, a student nurse in her 20s, in 2006. The wedding night party was still under way at the family's home in Roubaix when the groom came down from the bedroom complaining that his bride was not a virgin. He could not display the blood-stained sheet that is traditionally exhibited as proof of the bride's "purity".

Mr X went to court the following morning and was granted a annulment on the grounds that his bride had deceived him on "one of the essential elements" of the marriage. In disgrace with both families, she acknowledged that she had led her groom to believe that she was a virgin when she had already had sexual intercourse. She did not oppose the annulment.


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