Social movement against child brides in Yemen
Of course, very quietly done, but it’s there nonetheless:
One morning last month, Arwa Abdu Muhammad Ali walked out of her husband’s house here and ran to a local hospital, where she complained that he had been beating and sexually abusing her for eight months.
That alone would be surprising in Yemen, a deeply conservative Arab society where family disputes tend to be solved privately. What made it even more unusual was that Arwa was 9 years old.
Within days, Arwa had become a celebrity in Yemen, where child marriage is common but has rarely been exposed in public. She was the second child bride to come forward in less than a month; in April, a 10-year-old named Nujood Ali had gone by herself to a courthouse to demand a divorce, generating a landmark legal case.
Together, the two girls’ stories have helped spur a movement to put an end to child marriage, which is increasingly seen as a crucial aspect of the cycle of poverty in Yemen and other developing countries. Pulled out of school and forced to have children before their bodies are ready, many rural Yemeni women end up illiterate and with serious health problems. Their babies are often stunted, too.
“You can have a marriage contract even with a 1-year-old girl, not to mention a girl of 9, 7 or 8,” he said. “But is the girl ready for sex or not?” What is the appropriate age for sex for the first time? This varies according to environment and tradition,” al-Mu’bi said.