Speaking of child marriage, this article claims: “The ruling [in Yemen] abides by an interpretation of the Koran that claims there is no prescribed age for marriage.”
We’re told it’s “an interpretation” of the Qur’an, but that wording stops deliberately short of evaluating the interpretation or even examining the text that is at issue. Qur’an 65:4 says, “Such of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the prescribed period, if ye have any doubts, is three months, and for those who have no courses (it is the same)…” Thus, the same waiting period allowed to establish possible pregnancy in the wake of divorce applies to those who have not yet menstruated. And of course, there is also the example of Muhammad himself, who consummated his marriage to Aisha when she was nine.
“Yemen confronts plight of child brides,” by Ginny Hill for the Christian Science Monitor, August 22:
Sanaa, Yemen – Two months ago, at the start of the school vacation, 12-year-old Reem was forced to marry her 30-year-old cousin.
“While my hair was styled for the ceremony, I thought of ways to set fire to my wedding dress,” she says. “When I protested, my dad gagged me and tied me up. After the wedding, I tried to kill myself twice.”
Reem is the latest child bride to run from her husband’s arms into the media spotlight. But she is not the youngest girl to escape from domestic violence and sexual abuse in recent months. This spring, 9-year-old Arwa and 10-year-old Nujood became the first “tiny voices” to alert the world to Yemen’s widespread practice of child marriage.
The girls’ stories have instigated a campaign against the practice, which is believed to be a consequence of widespread poverty as parents unable to provide for their children give, and in some cases sell, them into matrimony.
According to estimates based on surveys by university researchers and development agencies, half of all brides in Yemen are age 18 or younger. But there are no reliable national figures.
Child brides are prevalent in Yemen because the minimum marriage age of 15 was revoked a decade ago to allow parents to decide when their daughters should marry. The ruling abides by an interpretation of the Koran that claims there is no prescribed age for marriage.
Deep-rooted traditions also play a role. “Early marriages are universal in Yemen because of the cultural premium placed on shaping a young bride to meet the husband’s needs,” explains Naseem ur-Rehman, the chief of communications for the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Yemen.
Parliament is considering a proposal to re-instate a legal minimum, setting the age at 18. But some lawmakers remain opposed on religious grounds. “Yemenis follow established customs more closely than the law,” says Ahmed al-Gorashi, chairman of the child-protection charity Seyaj. “Tribal leaders and imams have more influence than the state. But it’s important to amend our marriage laws to create a benchmark. We need a new place to start from.”
As reported here, the proposal to reinstate a minimum age has been awaiting debate in the Yemeni parliament since 2000. Meanwhile, how many Yemeni girls born in 2000 are already married?
Yemeni women are the most vulnerable
UNICEF warns that soaring inflation rates and high food prices threaten to turn increasing numbers of young girls into child brides, as families struggle to survive.
“There’s an avalanche of factors working against the girl child. We should be on a war footing … to save young girls from the inferno of child marriage,” says Mr. Rehman.
He explains that the phenomenon of child marriage transcends the urban-rural divide and cuts across economic categories. “Even powerful families arrange alliance marriages by bartering their daughters into the power structures at an early age, but girls from the poorest families are most at risk,” he says. […]
“The cards are stacked against the girl child, and those shuffling the cards don’t even understand the risks to their sisters and daughters,” adds Rehman.
Or perhaps they simply don’t care.
Pregnant women in Yemen are at high risk of dying during childbirth. Early marriage contributes to this problem, as teenage mothers are five times more likely to die from complications during labor than women giving birth in their twenties, says Rehman.
No support after divorce
Reem, Arwa, and Nujood have broken free from unwanted marriages, but their lives have become a spectacle and they are still struggling to adjust. Front-page coverage has provoked a much-needed national debate about a taboo practice. But it has also left the girls exposed in a culture where women are veiled and marriage is treated as a private matter.
“They’re all very confused,” says Yemen Times editor Nadia Saqqaf, whose newspaper first reported the girls’ stories. “They don’t know if they are girls or women.” […]
Meanwhile, Reem is still waiting for a judge to grant her divorce. The judge claims that Reem, as a minor, is unable to decide what is best for herself and must wait until she is 15 to see if she still wants a divorce. Reem’s lawyer is currently appealing the verdict.
For now, Reem is at her mother’s apartment. Her parents are separated; her mother did not have prior knowledge of the arranged marriage. Reem’s father has threatened to kidnap her. “My dad said he’ll kill me for defying him, but I want to go back to school. I’m too young for the responsibility of marriage,” she says.