It seems these days you can’t escape the stories of girls as young as 8 being forced into marriages with men much older than them in countries like Yemen, where it is allowed by their laws. With the power of online and social media, these stories are being forced into the conscious of the western world and people are starting to speak up about this.
Remember the story of 11 year-old Nada al-Ahdal who escaped an impending forced marriage with the help of her uncle? She made a youtube video and it went viral, sparking outrage. Many worldwide organizations have been working hard to protest the Yemeni government to change the laws to protect the innocence of young girls.
Equality now which works to end violence against women worldwide, started an online petition in September 2013 to force the Yemen government to stop these atrocities. They have documented horrific stories on their website, girls as young as 11 and 12 dying from childbirth, committing suicide, being beaten and raped, and even their own families torture them for the sake of these inhumane marriages. Local advocate group Yemeni Women Union have been helping to build mounting pressure to save the lives of these innocent girls.
Well now, the Yemeni Human Rights Ministry is trying to build pressure at every level of government to bring in a legally-sanctioned minimum marriage age to stop such abuse. Fouad Al Ghaffari, the director general of Yemen’s Ministry of Human Rights, has revealed that the country’s minister for Legal Affairs, Mohammed Al Mikhlafi, is to submit a bill that would outlaw child marriages if passed.
According to reports by the BBC
, the country is taking this petition and proposed law seriously, with the police stepping in to stop the marriage of a young girl over the weekend in the city of Taiz.
“In 2009, the Yemeni parliament considered a draft bill submitted by two government ministries and backed by Yemeni women and children’s rights organizations that fixed the minimum age of marriage for girls at age 17 and included penalties and punishment for those in violation. However, the passage of the bill was effectively blocked by the parliament’s Shariah (Islamic Law),” states the Equality Now petition.
“The failure of the Yemeni government to ban child marriage is a violation of their international obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women both of which contain provisions against child marriage or practices prejudicial to the health of children.”
But there could be hope yet as the Yemen Human Rights Minister, a woman named Hooria Mashhour has requested the reintroduction of the 2009 parliamentary bill that would effectively ban child marriages in the country. This woman could be the key to changing the future of many many young lives in the country. You can still take part in this historic act and sign the petition here
11 year old former child bride Wafa was married to a 40 year old man who repeatedly raped and tortured her. Thanks to Equality Now and the YWU and a clever lawyer, they were able to take Wafa’s case to court and help her obtain a divorce. But not all girls in her position are as lucky as Wafa.
“My message to other parents is that they should not think of marrying their daughters at a young age, girls should go to school. I don’t want any girl to suffer as I did. Girls should be educated in order to be able to live happily and in dignity,” she says.
It’s so incredulous that parents would willingly give up their precious daughters to enter into a marriage which is not full of love, but hatred, physical violence and in some cases, a quick road to a painful death. Why even get married? And how do the men of this country grow up in such a way knowing to treat women like this? It is a gut-wrenching, evil act that has to be stopped. Evil has no purpose but to kill and destroy. What do they gain from treating young girls like this? Do they become the big man around town? Are they seen as heroes in their country’s eyes?
There’s a reason why a lot of this is hidden, because they KNOW what they are doing is wrong and despicable. But to see local authorities step in and prevent a child marriage is promising. We hope there are many more authorities who will have their eyes opened to this injustice and will use their power in a positive way to bring change.