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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Yemen human rights minister calls for child marriage ban

Nujood Ali, divorced at 10.

Last week an eight-year-old girl reportedly died following her marriage to man in his 40’s. It was reported that Rawan died last week after suffering from internal bleeding following sexual intercourse. Yemen’s rights minister said she was going to press for the minimum age of marriage to be raised to 18. 

Yemen does not have a minimum age requirement for marriage currently. A previous bill was introduced in 2009 that would have set the age minimum at 17. The bill was shelved after being blocked by ultraconservative lawmakers from the Islamist Al-Islah party. 

Huriya Mashhoor, Yemen’s rights minister, said she wanted to revive the bill and amend the age from 17 to 18. She said, “I wrote to the president of the chamber of deputies to re-file on the parliamentary agenda the bill limiting the age of marriage. We are asking to fix the legal age for marriage at 18, as Yemen is a signatory to the international conventions on children’s rights.”

Mashhoor made these statements after the government formed a committee to investigate reports about the eight-year-old girls death.  The governor of the Hajja province is claiming that Rawan is still alive. 

Ali a-Qaissi, the governor, told the official news agency SABA, “the young girl Rawan Abdo Hattan is still alive and normally lives with her family who, in turn, deny the whole thing.” He also added, “the young girl is currently in a social protection centre after undergoing physical and psychological tests in a public hospital.”
Mashhoor believed, prior to the government’s investigation and the governor’s announcement, that there could have been an attempt to silence the matter and cover up actual events.

Data from the United Nations in 2006 shows that 14 percent of girls in Yemen are married before the age of 15 and 52 percent are married before 18.  

Child marriage in Yemen quickly caught the attention of the world in 2008 when Nujood Ali, a 10-year-old, demanded a divorce from her 30-year-old abusive husband. Shortly after Nujood Ali bravely stood up for herself, Arwa Abdu Muhammad, came forward to complain that her husband had been beating and sexually abusing her for eight months. Arwa was 9-years-old at the time. 

(Photo: Book cover, public domain, wikimedia commons.)

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