News / Middle East

Child Brides in Yemen Seek Legal Protection

A legislation in the country's parliament to set the minimum age for marriage at 17 has been languishing for a year

Multimedia

Audio
Heather Murdock

In many parts of Yemen, it is customary to marry girls as young as 10-years old.  About a year ago, a bill was introduced to the country's parliament that would set the minimum age for marriage at 17.  But it continues to languish in committees after some religious leaders voiced their opposition. 

Sally al-Sahabi lives in a tiny stone hovel with no running water, and rusty hotplate for cooking.  When she was 11, she wanted to get married.

Sally says she was seduced by the promise of new clothes and jewels for the first time in her life.  But now, at 13-years-old, she thinks marrying her 25-year-old cousin Nabil al-Mushahi was a huge mistake.

Not long after the wedding Sally says she was beaten and raped.  She begged her father to help her escape.  But he hit her until she bled for disobeying her husband.
 
And Sally is not alone.  Lawyer and children's rights advocate Shadda Nasser says as many as 40 percent of Yemeni girls are married before they are 13-years old.  Nasser says the girls grow up uneducated, resenting their husbands, and later their children, for their own lost childhoods.

"They put her in the small jail in the home," Nasser sais. "She cannot go outside, she cannot play, she cannot continue her study.  Only she stay in the home."

Having babies before puberty also puts the young brides lives in danger.  Girls who give birth before age 18 are almost eight times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s, according to the U.N. children's agency.

Fawziya Youssef was 12-years old when she, and her baby, died in childbirth in September.  She had been married to her 26-year-old husband for one year.

Nasser says many families also marry their daughters early to alleviate the pressure of poverty.  Almost half of Yemen lives on less than two dollars a day.  Sometimes girls are married so the family can collect the dowry traditionally due to the father of the bride, sometimes they are married simply so the parents can have one less mouth to feed.

In February, a bill that would set the minimum marriage age at 17 won a majority of votes in the Yemeni parliament.  But before the president could sign it, the bill was blocked.  Several prominent sheiks objected, saying it contradicted Islamic law.

Parliament member Sheik Mohammad al-Hamzi says the proposed law is yet another bow to Western culture that would limit choices for families.  He says God, not law, decides when a girl is old enough to marry.  Yemeni law, he says, should focus on helping to educate parents about what is safe for their children.

Sally's father, Mubkhoot Ahmed, supports the law, but also blames early marriage on illiteracy and ignorance.  He says he did not know it could harm his daughter, and admits to beating her after he was accused of teaching her not to sleep with her husband.

But after Sally ran away, refused to eat for three days, and then threatened to kill herself, Ahmed realized how much Sally suffered as a young bride.  He is now fighting for his daughter's divorce and says although he is illiterate, he should now have a college degree in the dangers of early marriage.  
 

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid