Child marriage is a common practice in Yemen. Just over half of Yemeni women (52%) are married before becoming adults, ie. under the age of 18. Girls are often married as early as 12 or 13 and sometimes as young as eight years’ old or less (1).
Child marriage steals childhoods by forcing adult responsibilities such as childbirth and parenthood on girls and young women. In Yemen, child brides are more likely to suffer problems with their health and especially their reproductive health. They are also more likely to suffer physical, emotional, and sexual abuse from their husbands and in-laws. Almost always, they are denied education and are unable to earn a living. The effects of child marriage can last throughout their adult lives and have a significant impact on the outcome of their own children’s lives.
In 1999 the government of Yemen made the situation worse by removing the legal minimum age for marriage – 15 years’ old.
In Yemen we have some of the poorest families in the world marrying off their child daughters into a life of early marriage and servitude. For many parents, the outcome is good: one less hungry mouth to feed and a bit of money paid on top. For their daughters, it is not so good as they are denied the chance of an education or training. For Yemen’s society at large, however, the outcome is even worse: with around 75% of the nation living in the rural areas and subject to the mentality where early marriage is OK, a large part of the country’s population is poorly educated and untrained and unable to meet the challenges of the modern world.
While Yemen is set to undergo huge political and structural reforms, it will be a long time before the benefits are seen in its remote villages and rural areas. Unless we recognize this as a genuine problem for Yemeni society as a whole, it will be many years before young girls experience the freedoms that Yemenis have been fighting for. That’s why it’s so important to highlight the plight of child brides.
(1) “How Come You Allow Little Girls to Get Married?” <http://www.hrw.org/reports/2011/12/07/how-come-you-allow-little-girls-get-married>
Human Rights watch December 2011
One of the best series of analysis into child marriage is written by Sam’aa al Hamdani. Her blog is called www.yemeniaty.com and she is an authority on the subject. Sam’aa is a prolific writer and although navigating her site can be a bit difficult, you can use the search facility on her website and entering the search string “child marriage” will yield excellent results – a must for anyone researching into child marriage in Yemen.