Yemeni Parliament Sets No Minimum Age For Marriage

I was reading the Arab News this morning and there was an article in it about an 8 year old Yemeni girl who had taken her father and her 30 year old husband to court seeking protection from abuse. According to the Arab News whenever she wanted to go outside and play with her friends, her husband would chase her into the bedroom.

OK, bizarre and rather nasty I thought. So tonight I did a quick hunt of the Yemeni Newspapers Online and found an article, Parliament refuses to legislate minimum age for marriage, in the Yemen Times. The article discusses the decision by the Yemeni Parliament not to set a minimum age for marriage. Various groups in Yemen had been calling for a minimum of 18 years of age for both males and females. The case of the 8 year old, Nujood Ali, is used to illustrate the problem.

Sixty-one members of parliament were part of the Parliament’s Safe Motherhood Committee and recommended the setting of a minimum age. However,

the issue was rejected by the Evaluation and Jurisprudence Committee, which said it is a health issue and cannot be generalized. The issue was passed to Parliament’s Health Committee, where it will reside for an unknown duration.

This really is the sort of thing that steams me up – the ignoring of what is essentially a common-sense decision. It is further exacerbated by some of the local attitudes there. For example,

Although he is currently in custody, Nujood’s husband has rejected her demand to be divorced.

“I will not divorce her, and it is my right to keep her. No need to sleep with her, at least I can have her as a wife. No power can stop me,” the husband, Faez Ali Thamer, said.

“It is not a matter of loving her, I don’t, but it’s just a challenge to her and her uncle who think that they can put me in jail and also the judge has no right to bring me here. How did she dare to complain about me?” he threatened.

Some of the statistics emerging are really quite sad. Nujood went to Sana’a West Court on April 2 and asked for a divorce from her 30 year old husband. She claimed that her husband had physically and sexually abused her for two months. She also filed a case against her father because he had married her off to the man, although the judge ordered both the husband and the father to be kept in custody, the father was released due to ill health. Interestingly, the judge ordered the men to be held in custody even though they had not broken any law.

UNICEF did a field study into child marriage and found that child marriage among girls reached about 52%. What was even more disturbing was that the study:

disclosed that marriage age raised gradually from an average of 10.24 years to 14.70 years for women and from 20.97 to 21.54 years for men. It indicated that the average marriage age varies from one geographical area to another; for example, it showed that girls in Hodeidah and Hadramout married at the average age of eight, while in Mukalla the average age was 10.

This is so un-Islamic, so sad and so bizarre. It is bad enough having paedophiles preying on children. At least paedophilia is illegal and there is a chance to catch and arrest paedophiles, but here this is legal and appears to be condoned by the government.

This should be stopped.

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