SMH Late With The News – Ten-Year-Old Granted Divorce in Yemen

So today the Sydney Morning Herald ran a piece with the title of Ten-year-old granted divorce from abusive marriage which they had taken from the L A Times. Mostly the information seemed accurate (well, except for the age of the girl and one or two other things). The silliest was that this is old news. It was reported in the Arab News and the Yemen Times (and I think the Australian Press as well) back on the 18th of April 2008 – nearly two full months ago. I even mentioned it in Eight Year Old Girl’s Divorce Is Finalised

Well done SMH – take it from the L A Times … but two months late! Even the L A Times published the story back on 11 April 2008.

Eight Year Old Girl’s Divorce Is Finalised

In what can only be described as a rare touch of common-sense and good news, the еight-year-old I mentioned on the 14th, Nujood Ali, has had her divorce from her 30 year old husband finalised by the court. An anonymous donor paid about US $250 to her husband to divorce her.

Unfortunately, there are many other girls in Yemen in a similar position and the government does not seem to want to put a minimum age for marriage law in place.

Interestingly, here in Saudi Arabia we often hear of news like an 11 year old married to his 10 year old cousin. However, the good news is that at least Nujood is safe at the moment.

As noted in the Yemen Times

On April 15, with support from her lawyer Shatha Mohammed Nasser and Judge Abud Al-Khaleaq Ghowber, Nojoud paid her way out of marriage with YR 100,000 from an anonymous donor in the Emirates and happily became an 8-year-old divorcee.

“This was the first time a girl came to us for a divorce. We are going to do our best to push the parliament to change the marriage law,” said Judge Ghowber.

“I am so happy to be free and I will go back to school and will never think of getting married again,” Nojoud said joyfully. “It is a good feeling to be rid of my husband and his bad treatment.”

There are many early marriages in Yemen with the International Center for Research on Women noting in their 2007 statistics that Yemen is one of 20 developing countries where early marriage is common.

The Yemen Times notes from those reports:

Most women have their first child immediately after their first menstruation cycle and are likely to have a child every 12 months during their reproductive lifespan. Yemen’s fertility rate is extremely high, with an average 6.3 children per each woman, and the country also has some of the highest mother and infant mortality rates worldwide.

According to research on early marriage in Yemen from Oxfam and the United Nations Population Fund, there are severe physical consequences that result from early marriage and subsequent early childbirth such as nutritional anemia, post-partum hemorrhages, obstetric fistula (a disorder that affects the bladder and causes leaking of urine or faeces), plus mother and infant mortality.

The Yemen Times has been pushing for the setting of a minimum age and has been happy to receive support from anywhere. Really, this is something that we should all help in however we can. You can also see more at the International Center for Research n Women.

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.