Child divorce in Yemen

The World

Yemen’s capitals are full of crowded streets. This 10-year old girl helped us navigate the sewage-infested neighborhoods. She seems steady and self-possessed. Just months earlier her parents had arranged to have her married to a 30-something motorcycle deliveryman. Her parents said the groom promised he wouldn’t have sex with her until she reached puberty, but the problems started on the first night after the wedding. The girl said he struck her and said he had all rights because they were now married and then struck me with a stick. For weeks, she says she cried all day. Her father said there was nothing he could do. The parents say they were trying to do what was best for her and didn’t receive a dowry. That’s a claim many Yemenis don’t believe and the girl’s story isn’t uncommon. A recent study found that nearly half of girls in Yemen marry before 18. She was lucky and she eventually went to court. The judge had the father and husband arrested and she was put in care of an uncle. One of Yemen’s premier human rights lawyers also took up her cause, and the girl’s fame spread. The judge was sympathetic but couldn’t press charges against the father or husband, but she was granted a divorce. It also prompted calls to raise the age of legal marriage to 18 up from 15, but conservative lawmakers refuse to take up the issue. But more child brides have come forward. Aside from this whole issue, the girl is a typical 10-year girl.

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