In one of the most horrific stories I have ever heard, an 8-year old girl, only identified as Raman, died of internal injuries after being raped the first night of her arranged marriage to a man who is reportedly 40. She is believed to have suffered a tear in her genitals and severe bleeding. The incident has, unsurprisingly, sparked outrage in the area, where child-marriage is a contentious issue. She died in a tribal area of Hardh, north west Yemen, close to the border with Saudi Arabia. Human rights campaigners are now demanding the groom and her family are arrested.
Activists hope the girl’s death will stop the widespread practice of men marrying young girls in the country.
According to Death and Taxes, while Yemeni officials insist that the journalist who broke the story, Mohammad Radman, is making it all up, child brides are not an uncommon thing in Yemen (or in the rest of the world, for that matter). After Nujood Ali, a 10-year-old girl, obtained a divorce from her adult husband, the country briefly tried to make it illegal to marry off girls under the age of 15. The law was quickly overturned by conservative activists and lawmakers who believed it was “religious discrimination” against Muslims. As of now, marriage at any age is permitted in the country– only the adult husbands are supposed to wait until the girl is “sexually mature” before they rape her. Usually, this age is considered to be 9-years-old.
Yemen’s poverty plays a role in hindering efforts to stamp out the practice, as poor families find themselves unable to say no to ‘bride-prices’ that can be hundreds of dollars for their daughters. More than a quarter of Yemen’s females marry before age 15, according to a report in 2010 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.
In September 2010, a 12-year-old Yemeni child-bride died after struggling for three days in labour to give birth, a local human rights organisation 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.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) There are currently some 57.5 million child brides across the world, 40 per cent of which married in India. Forty-six per cent of women in India were married before the age of 18, according to the National Family Health Survey-3. Meanwhile, in Africa, 42 per cent of girls were married before turning 18 compared to 29 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean. But the number of child brides is estimated to rise to 140 million by 2020 if current trends continue, 18.5 million of which will be under 15 years old, analysts warn. Statistics show that girls living in poor households are almost twice as likely to marry before 18 than girls in higher income households. And girls younger than 15 are also five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s.
I found 2 mini docudramas on the subject: