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

Video Iran Nuclear Deal Becomes US Campaign Issue

Voters in three crucial battleground states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - overwhelmingly oppose nuclear deal with Iran More

With IS in Coalition Cross-Hairs, al-Qaida's Syria Affiliate Reemerges

Jabhat al-Nusra has rebounded, increasingly casting itself as a critical player in battle for Syria’s future More

Lessons Learned From Katrina, 10 Years Later

FEMA chief Craig Fugate says key changes include better preparation, improved coordination among state, federal assistance agencies 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs