13-Year-Old Yemeni Bride Dies of Bleeding

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: April 8, 2010

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A Yemeni girl unrelated to this news story

SAN’A, Yemen (AP) — A 13-year-old Yemeni girl has died of injuries to her genitals four days after a family-arranged marriage, a human rights group said.

The practice of marrying young girls is widespread in Yemen and has drawn the attention of international rights groups seeking to pressure the government to outlaw child marriages. Legislation that would make it illegal for those under the age of 17 to marry is in serious peril after strong opposition from some of Yemen’s most influential Islamic leaders.

The 13-year-old girl from Hajja province, northwest of the capital, died on April 2, four days after her marriage to a 23-year-old man, said Majed al-Madhaji, a spokesman for the Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights. A medical report from al-Thawra hospital said she suffered a tear to her genitals and severe bleeding.

Authorities detained the husband.

The Yemeni rights group said the girl was married off in an agreement between two men to marry each other’s sisters to avoid having to pay expensive bride-prices. The group said that was a common arrangement in the deeply impoverished country.

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A Yemeni girl unrelated to this news story

 

Yemen’s gripping poverty plays a role in hindering efforts to stamp out the practice, as poor families find themselves unable to say no to bride-prices in the hundreds of dollars for their daughters.

More than a quarter of Yemen’s females marry before age 15, according to a report last year by the Social Affairs Ministry. Tribal custom also plays a role, including the belief that a young bride can be shaped into an obedient wife, bear more children and be kept away from temptation.

Last month, a group of the country’s highest Islamic authorities declared those supporting a ban on child marriages to be apostates.

A February 2009 law set the minimum age for marriage at 17, but it was repealed and sent back to parliament’s constitutional committee for review after some lawmakers called it un-Islamic. The committee is expected to make a final decision on the legislation this month.

Some of the clerics who signed the decree against a ban sit on the committee.

Further imperiling the effort is the weak government’s reluctance to confront the clerics and other conservative tribal officials, whose support is essential to their fragile hold on power.

The issue of Yemen’s child brides got widespread attention three years ago when an 8-year-old girl boldly went by herself to a courtroom and demanded a judge dissolve her marriage to a man in his 30s. She eventually won a divorce, and legislators began looking at ways to curb the practice.

In September, a 12-year-old Yemeni child-bride died after struggling for three days in labor to give birth, a local human rights organization said.

Yemen once set 15 as the minimum age for marriage, but parliament annulled that law in the 1990s, saying parents should decide when a daughter marries.

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2 thoughts on “13-Year-Old Yemeni Bride Dies of Bleeding

  1. Child bride dies after three days in labour
    September 14, 2009

    A 12-year-old Yemeni girl, who was forced into marriage, has died during a difficult delivery in which her baby also died, a children’s rights organisation said on Sunday, demanding action to stop Yemeni men from taking child brides.

    “The child, Fawziya Abdullah Youssef, died on Friday in western Yemen at the age of 12 due to a complicated delivery,” the Yemeni Organisation for Childhood Protection (Seyaj) said.

    The organisation said its volunteers had confirmed that doctors had been unable to save Fawziya’s life after she suffered complications from the delivery.

    The Daily Mail reported the labour lasted three days.

    Raised in an impoverished family with a father suffering from kidney failure, Fawziya was forced to drop out of school and married off at the age of 11. She fell pregnant a year later, the group said.

    “The lack of a statutory minimum age for marriage makes it impossible for local officials to ban child marriages, especially among girls, or to punish their parents or spouses for the disastrous consequences of such marriages,” Seyaj said, adding that such marriages were widespread on Yemen’s Red Sea coast.

    “The case of Fawziya illustrates the tragedy of those whom we call ‘the brides of death’, who are little girls, less than 15 years old, forced into marriage, mostly due to financial reasons,” Seyaj director Ahmed al-Qorashi said.

    He said the proportion of little girls and teenage females married before 15 was nearly 50 per cent in rural parts of Yemen, one of the world’s poorest countries despite its proximity to oil-rich Saudi Arabia.

    “These marriages are the result of poverty, ignorance and illiteracy, and lead to the destruction of the lives of these young girls, whose opinion is not taken in consideration,” Qorashi added.

    Last year, a Yemeni court granted a divorce to an eight-year-old girl whose unemployed father forced her into an arranged marriage with a man 20 years her senior, saying he feared she might otherwise be kidnapped by the would-be spouse.

    The case of Nojud Mohammed Ali shed light on the suffering of the many adolescent girls forced into marriage.

    “This is a real tragedy in which the Government is the top responsible party, because the President [Ali Abdullah Saleh] has until now not promulgated the law [on a minimum age for marriage] adopted by Parliament in February,” said the lawyer who obtained Nojud’s divorce, Shaza Nasser.

    She said the Government “should launch awareness campaigns in rural areas and prevent clerics from concluding marriage contracts” for girls under the age of 17.

    She said authorities also had the duty to make sure girls received schooling in a country where illiteracy rates are estimated at 33.4 per cent among men and reach 76 per cent among women.

    Since she won Nojud’s case, Nasser has been contacted by many girls in similar situations who were encouraged to speak out by her success in the courts. She has already helped a 10-year-old girl, Arwa, to get a divorce.

    She said she was working on the case of a teenager who had been married by her father at the age of two because he needed the money. The marriage contract allowed her to remain with her parents until the age of 13 when she was expected to consummate the union.

    AFP
    The Sydney Morning Herald

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