Friday, April 8, 2011

Arab Women Divided on Child Marriages

Yemeni women protest child marriages in Sana'a
Yemeni women for child-brides, sign says "Yes for Sharia rights for Muslim women"

Child marriages are prominent in places such as India, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and some rural areas in upper Egypt. Of the Arab countries, Yemen is making the most headlines with its high rate of child brides. According to a report by Yemen's Ministry of Social Affairs, a quarter of Yemeni women marry before they turn 15!

Poverty and tribal customs are mostly to blame for Yemen's alarmingly high rate of child brides. Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world and many poor families in rural areas find hundred dollar dowries for their young daughters too hard to pass up. Tribal customs come into play with the belief that child brides will be more obedient and fertile.

In 2007, the topic of child brides in Yemen was brought to the forefront when a brave 8 year old Yemeni girl went to the courtroom and demanded that the judge grant her a divorce from her 30 year old husband. Her divorce was eventually granted and Yemenis began to push for a ban on child marriages.

In 2010, a prominent Yemeni cleric issued a fatwa (religious decree) stating that supporters of the ban on child marriages are renouncing and abandoning their religion. The ban would make it illegal for people under the age of 17 to marry.

In that same year, a 12 year old Yemeni girl died after struggling for three days in labor to give birth and a 13 year old girl bled to death from the damage inflicted on her sexual organs by her 23 year old husband. Three days after her wedding she was tied down and forced to have sex by her husband, resulting in the devastating internal injuries that led to her painful death.

Following these tragic events Yemeni women began and are still continuing their protests against the delay on the ban of child marriage. A counter-protest emerged where Yemeni women who seem to have been swayed by the fatwa, said that placing a minimum age on marriage is in conflict with Sharia law.

In rural Egypt, the subject of child marriages divides women as well. Below is an interview with an Egyptian mother who was a child bride and married off all of her daughters at the ages of 11-16.

Here is a video featuring the young Yemeni girls I mention before, it is a televised interview with the child brides and their family.

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