An 8-year-old girl should be going to school or playing with friends. She shouldn’t be married to a 40-year-old man or dead from internal bleeding caused by sexual intercourse.
Unfortunately, such is an alleged story from locals in Yemen where child marriage is still legal for girls. Hooria Mashhour, Yemen’s human rights minister, said the following about the incident:
This isn’t the first time a child marriage has happened in Yemen, so we should not focus only on this case. Many child marriages take place every year in Yemen. It’s time to end this practice. I personally have (talked to) the human rights coordinator for the ministry on the ground in Haradh, and he informed me that nearly everyone he spoke to is denying the story, but he feels strongly suspicious. We feel people may be hiding information due to fear.
There is still much confusion surrounding what actually happened. The police department has called the story “baseless,” while others are wondering whether residents are downplaying what happened out of fear. Government officials have said the little girl, Rawan, is alive in custody, while local sources are saying she has already been secretly buried.
Whether or not Rawan is still alive, the fact stands that the practice of child marriage is far too common. According to the United Nations Population Fund, more than 140 million girls around the world will be forced into marriage between 2011 and 2020. Fifty million of these girls will be under 15-years-old.
Earlier this summer an 11-year-old girl named Nada, also from Yemen, escaped a forced marriage by abandoning her family and going to live with her uncle in Saudi Arabia. A video surfaced of the young girl sharing her story saying:
What about the innocence of childhood?…I would have no life, no education… Don’t they have any compassion? They have killed our dreams. They have killed everything inside us….this is criminal.”
Please sign the Care2 petition calling on the Yemen government to set the minimum age for marriage at 17-years-old. Currently over 50% of girls are married before 17 so changing the minimum age in their new constitution would protect countless young girls like Nada and Rawan from becoming child brides.
Photo Credit: Gerri and Bonni