After the death of an eight-year-old Yemeni bride on her wedding night, many are horrified. Yes, I said “eight-year-old bride”. While Yemen has been in the spotlight over the years with stories concerning child brides, it has brought on special attention of the international community this week. Rumors suggest eight-year-old Rawan died from internal bleeding as a result of intercourse on her wedding night to a forty-year-old man.
While many residences of Haradh, Yemen have anonymously spoken out to the media, many local officials, including the head of the police department, have denied these claims. With Rawan’s body still in police custody and a lack of physical proof, it is difficult to establish her true cause of death. Some suggest that she isn’t dead at all, but alive in the custody of the police. Rawan’s father has reportedly denied these rumors, but will not speak about the matter. Yemen’s Human Rights Coordinator Hooria Mashour, admits that most people he talked to in Haradh denied the validity of the story. Mashour admits that many have been ordered by officials not to speak about it, and could be lying due to fear. Media outlets continue to struggle to find common ground on this possible tragedy.
Whether or not these reports on Rawan’s cause of death are true, the issue of child marriages remains a pressing topic. Mashour is quick to relay that this is not the first case of a child being married off in Yemen. The Human Rights Watch reports “more than half of all young girls are married before age 18. About 14% of girls in Yemen are married before age 15.” In 2010 in a similar case, a 12-year-old Yemeni bride died of internal bleeding after intercourse to her much older husband. In 2008 Nujood Ali went to court asking for a divorce, and got one at age ten. These two girls join a list of thousands of Yemeni girls who have been married off to much older men, often due to a family’s lack of money.
So how does this happen? There is no Yemeni law regulating marriage. There was an attempt to raise the minimum age of marriage to 17 back in 2009 but it failed. Conservative parliamentarians argued that any kind of marriage regulation is in direct violation with Islamic law, which does not have a minimum age of marriage. The bill was not signed.
Many Yemeni and international activists are hopeful that something can be done soon, continuing their protests and appeals at the government level. Unfortunately, the prominence of Islamic law inhibits many Yemeni from restricting marriage, as it is a religious practice. Yemen is not the only country with a reputation of common child marriages. India, Niger and Nigeria have also had very public examples of young girls being married off. With this growing anger of many citizens concerning the case of Rawan, activists are hopeful action will be taken to end this horrific practice.
Do you think its necessary to establish legislation or protect the prominent Islam religion?
As a human rights problem, should the western world take responsibility?