Tunisians protest against Article 227
Tunisian women hold placards during a demonstration against Article 227 of the penal code, after a court approved the marriage of a 13-year-old girl to a relative who made her pregnantFethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Images

A 13-year-old Tunisian girl who was impregnated by a 20-year-old relative has been forced to marry him after it was approved by a court.

The court gave the green light for the relative to wed the victim on 13 December, sparking public outrage.

The ceremony between the girl, who comes from the northwestern city of Kef, and her brother-in-law took place in front of their parents, despite attempts to stop it, according to CNN.

The age of sexual consent in Tunisia is 18. However, article 227 of the Tunisian penal code stipulates that sex with a female under 15 is punishable by six years imprisonment if it is carried out "without violence". However, the perpetrator can stop the prosecution by marrying the victim.

Chokri Mejri, a spokesman for the court, said the girl "was not raped".

"We interviewed the girl and after verifying all the details, we considered her fit for marriage," Mejri was quoted as saying by Le Parisien.

Mejri's assessment was flatly rejected by a representative from the government's child protection office.

"When it's a 13-year-old child, we can't talk of a sexual relation with consent. It's a rape," said Houda Abboudi, a spokesperson for the agency. "The court's decision didn't take into account the interests of this child… who will marry her rapist."

Non-governmental organisations hit out at the decision and issued a joint statement condemning the approval of a marriage between "a 13-year-old child and her rapist".

However, one judge who did not wished to be named said: "In that particular case, the judge was simply abiding the law, which is definitely an antiquated law."

They added: "Tunisia was one of the first countries in the region to ratify international treaties that guarantee the rights of children. However, this law was never amended. It's up to the judge to decide whether to apply it or not."

The Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (ATFD) blasted the "scandalous" decision.

"At 13-years-old, one cannot give free and enlightened judgement – especially since there is no sex education at school," said Monia Ben Jemia, the head of the rights group.