Child marriage

Yemen: End child marriages by enacting and enforcing a minimum age of marriage law

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2012 May 21

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What You Can Do: 

Contact the Yemeni President, Minister of Justice and the Speaker of the House and ask them to:

  1. Ensure that the draft bill banning child marriage is considered and passed by parliament as soon as possible.
  2. Ensure effective enforcement of this law once passed.
  3. Take measures to protect and promote the rights of girls who have ended or escaped child marriages, including by providing access to safe accommodation, education and counseling.

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>> TAKE ACTION NOW!

Letters should be addressed to:

Mr. Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi
President of the Republic of Yemen
President Residence
60 Street
Sana’a, Yemen
Fax: +967 1 276 866
Fax: +967 1 252 803
Tel: +967 1 621 062

Judge Mursd Al-Arshani
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
Justice Street
Sana’a, Yemen
Fax: +967 1 252 138
Tel: +967 1 334 334

Mr. Yahya Ali Al Raei
Speaker of the House
Yemeni Parliament
26 September Street
Sana’a, Yemen
Fax: +967 1 276 091
Tel: +967 1 272 765

Letters: 

Dear _____:

I am writing to express my deep concern about the prevalence of child marriage in Yemen and the inaction shown to date by the Yemeni government to ban this practice. Yemeni women’s role in the 2011 revolution that led to the formation of your new government was key. This is a time when Yemen needs the participation and support of all its citizens. Allowing child marriage, which sees up to fifty percent of Yemeni girls married before they reach the age of 18, means that Yemen is not nurturing its future.

In addition, international organizations such as the World Health Organization, UNICEF and UNFPA have underscored the negative physical, emotional, psychological, intellectual and sexual implications of child marriage on girls, including septic abortion, still births, death due to early pregnancy, deprivation of education, few social connections, restricted mobility, limited control over resources, little or no power in their new households and increased risk of domestic violence.

I am aware that draft legislation fixing the minimum age of marriage for girls at age 17 with penalties and punishment for violators has been pending in parliament since 2009 and passing it without delay would be a first step to helping girls escape abuse and allowing them to fulfill their potential. The absence of a law banning child marriage in Yemen means that child brides have to resort to divorce laws for women to get out of their marriages (rather than having these marriages annulled as illegal) and are required to pay-back their dower to obtain a divorce. A case in point is 11-year-old Wafa who in 2009 was married off by her father to a 40-year-old farmer who raped, beat and tried to strangle her. Wishing to escape the abuse and continue her education, Wafa ran away from her husband’s house but was unable to get out of the marriage without paying back her dower which her father had spent before passing away.

Stopping child marriage is an international obligation of the Yemeni government under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) both of which contain provisions against the practice. Please ensure that the draft child marriage bill is considered and passed by parliament as soon as possible. Also, please ensure effective enforcement of this law, once passed and punishment for those in violation. In addition, please take measures to protect and promote the rights of girls who have ended or escaped child marriages, including by providing access to security, education and counseling.

I thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely

Egypt: Stop the lowering of the minimum age of marriage for girls in Egypt

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2012 May 8
Update Date: 
2012 Oct 10
Update: 

UPDATE: Due to the political situation in Egypt, the Egyptian Parliament is currently dissolved. Equality Now and our partners on the ground are monitoring the situation.


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What You Can Do: 

Please urge the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the Speaker of the People’s Assembly Council, and the President of the Shura Council to stop the proposed changes to the age of marriage law and the custody on divorce law. Remind the authorities that they have legal obligations both under the Egyptian Constitution to uphold gender equality and under human rights instruments, including the CRC and CEDAW, to reject any amendments that would undermine the rights of girls and women. >> TAKE ACTION NOW!

Letters should go to:

  • Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, 11 Al’ourubah Street, Cairo, Egypt / Fax: +202-241-83761, E-mail: amd@mmc.gov.eg (note: some emails have not been going through to this address; online signatures will be collected and faxed.)
  • Dr. Mohamed Said El Katatni, Speaker of the People’s Assembly Council, Majles El Shab St.1, Cairo, Egypt / Fax 002-227921040
  • Mr. Ahmad Fahmy, President of the Shura Council, Kasr Al Aini Street- Cairo, Egypt / Fax: 002-227941980
Letters: 

Dear Field Marshal/Speaker/President:

I am writing to express my support for the men and women in Egypt who are advocating for the maintenance of gender equality in Egypt as guaranteed under the Constitution. I therefore respectfully request that you do all you can to stop the proposed changes to the age of marriage law and the custody on divorce law.

I understand that Egypt’s People’s Assembly Council is currently discussing legislation that would reduce the minimum age of marriage for girls from 18 to possibly as low as 9 years old and could vote on the final draft bill at any moment. If adopted, girls could be married off by their families without their consent putting them at risk of physical and psychological harm, as well as cutting short other life opportunities, such as pursuing their education. I also understand that draft legislation has also been introduced limiting a mother’s custody of her children upon divorce. I support the women and men in Egypt who recently sent a statement to the Parliament highlighting the inconsistency of these proposed legislative changes with the principles of the revolution, which include dignity, justice and freedom.

The guarantee of gender equality under Egypt’s Constitution is also consistent with the government of Egypt’s legal obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as well as other instruments. Please do not make any amendment to the minimum age of marriage law or the custody on divorce law which would breach the equality provisions in the Egyptian Constitution and under international law.

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,
 

Equality Now works with The Elders to address child marriage (The Nation)

2/13/12 -- The Nation -- "'The Elders' Take a Stand Against Child Marriage" Equality Now has worked extensively with The Elders to address the issue of child marriage.

Global Director Yasmeen Hassan speaks on the fight against child marriage (Council on Foreign Relations)

12/12/11 - Council on Foreign Relations - "Unlocking Potential: The Fight to Eradicate Child Marriage" Global Director Yasmeen Hassan speaks on the fight against child marriage at a Council on Foreign Relations roundtable (link to audio file).

Urgent Alert: United States: Urge the U.S. House Of Representatives to pass the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act before Congress adjourns

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2010 Dec 6

Equality Now commends the United States Senate on passage of The International Protecting Girls By Preventing Child Marriage Act Of 2009 and urges The U.S. House Of Representatives to pass this legislation

What You Can Do: 

As a part of efforts to curb child marriage, Equality Now urges its Women’s Action Network members in the U.S. to call upon their members of Congress to take urgent action to pass the legislation before Congress adjourns for the end of the year. Click here to find your Representative's contact information.

Letters: 

[add address of Congressperson]

Dear

I am writing to express my deep concern about the prevalence of child marriage in a number of countries around the world and the severe negative physical, emotional, psychological, educational and sexual implications of such marriage on girls, including death in some cases. 

Child marriages violate the human rights of girls by excluding them from decisions regarding the timing of marriage and choice of spouse.  Health-related impacts of early marriage and pregnancy according to the United Nations include higher risks of HIV infection, death in labor, septic abortion, still births, pregnancy-induced hypertension, puerperal sepsis and obstetric fistula.  Early marriage also jeopardizes girls’ right to formal education, which ends upon marriage.  Moreover, international research has shown that married girls have few social connections, restricted mobility, limited control over resources and little or no power in their new households, and that domestic violence is common in child marriages.

The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009 (S. 987/H.R. 2103) authorizes U.S. foreign assistance programs to prevent child marriage and provide educational and economic opportunities for girls around the world.  The legislation has unanimously passed through the Senate.  I urge you, as a member of Congress, to ensure that the U.S. House of Representatives will pass the legislation before Congress adjourns for the end of the year.

Please take action on this issue so that efforts to eradicate child marriages, which undermine our government’s efforts to empower women around the world, can be expanded and girls around the world are given a better chance to realize their potential.

I thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,
 

Saudi Arabia: End Child Marriages and Male Guardianship over Women

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2010 Nov 29
Update Date: 
2012 Nov 6
Update: 

UPDATE 20 MARCH 2013: The judge heard Fatima’s case earlier than expected and in November 2012, issued divorce papers without requiring repayment of the dower. After a required 90-day waiting period, Fatima’s divorce was finalized on 10 February. We will continue to work with Saudi activists to get a ban on child marriage in Saudi Arabia.


UPDATE 6 NOVEMBER 2012: Our Saudi Arabian partners have recently informed us that as of May 2011, 12-year-old child bride Fatima is back at home with her family and has refused to go back to her husband; she is attempting to get a divorce with the support of her uncle. Her husband wants her to move back to his house when she is older, and says that he will not grant her a divorce unless he is paid a large amount of money.  A judge has scheduled the first hearing in her divorce case for 12 December 2012.

We are strategizing with our partners on legal support services for Fatima so that she can continue pursuing the divorce case. However we are concerned that the judge will rule against her unless she can find a way to pay back the dower her father has already spent. Please continue to take action and keep pressure on the King of Saudi Arabia to issue an edict banning child marriages by establishing 18 years as a minimum age of marriage, and providing punishments for adults who enter into or facilitate such unions. Call upon him to annul the marriages of child brides whose marriage contracts have been executed but who have yet to be handed over to their husbands, and to ensure that child brides already living with their husbands are given the means to annul their marriages.


Equality Now has been informed of several cases of Saudi girls being married off at the behest of their male guardians. The most recent case concerns 12-year-old Fatima from Najran who was married on 5 October 2010 to a 50 year old man who already has a wife and ten children, most much older than Fatima. Her father Ali, who is unemployed and addicted to drugs, sold her in marriage for a sum of 40,000 Saudi Riyals (approximately US$ 10,665), which he used to buy himself a car. Reportedly, Fatima’s husband bought her a PlayStation as a wedding gift.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the King of Saudi Arabia asking him to issue an edict banning child marriages by establishing 18 years as a minimum age of marriage and providing punishments for those who enter into or facilitate such unions. Call upon him to take urgent action to annul the marriages of child brides whose marriage contracts have been executed but who have yet to be handed over to their husbands, and to ensure that child brides already living with their husbands are given a real choice to annul their marriages. Please urge him to ensure that the system of male guardianship over women is abolished so that Saudi women secure the right, among other things, to enter into marriages of their choice. In this respect, urge him to support the establishment of a codified personal status law to guarantee the rights of women in marriage and divorce, ensuring that such a law is based upon principles of equality and non-discrimination. Please send a similar letter to the Minister of Justice and a copy to the Human Rights Commission. TAKE ACTION!

Letters should go to:

His Majesty, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 491 2726

His Excellency Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul Elkarim
Abdul Azziz El Issa
Minister of Justice
University Street, Riyadh 11137
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 401 1741

With a copy to:

The Human Rights Commission
P.O. Box 58889 Riyadh 11515
King Fahed Street, Building 373, Riyadh
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Email: hrc@haq-ksa.org

Letters: 

[His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 491 2726]

[His Excellency Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul Elkarim Abdul Azziz El Issa
Minister of Justice
University Street, Riyadh 11137
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966-1-401-1741]

 [Date]

[Your Highness] [Dear Minister],

I am writing to express my deep concern about the issue of child marriage in Saudi Arabia and the extremely negative impact of such marriage on girls.  A recent case is that of 12-year-old Fatima from Najran who was married by her father to a 50-year-old man with a wife and ten children in exchange for 40,000 Saudi Riyals which her father used to buy a car.  Fatima’s paternal grandfather and uncle were opposed to the marriage but could not prevent it because, as her male guardian, her father Ali had the right under Saudi law to marry her off at whatever age to whomever he pleased.  They fear that Fatima’s two younger sisters will be subjected to a similar fate.

Child marriages violate the human rights of girls by excluding them from decisions regarding the timing of marriage and choice of spouse.  International organizations such as the World Health Organization, UNICEF and UNFPA have underscored the negative physical, emotional, psychological, intellectual and sexual implications of child marriage on girls.  Fatima’s marriage will, among other things, deprive her of an education and severely jeopardize her right to mental, emotional and physical well-being.

I urge you to issue an edict banning child marriages by establishing 18 years as the minimum age of marriage, and providing punishments for those who enter into or facilitate such unions.  I also urge you to take urgent action to annul the marriages of child brides whose marriage contracts have been executed but who have yet to be handed over to their husbands, and to ensure that child brides already living with their husbands are given a real choice to annul their marriages.  Please ensure that the Saudi legal and judicial system reflect your government’s stated claim before international bodies that women are not subject to male guardianship, but rather have the right, among other things, to enter into marriages of their choice.  In this respect, I urge you to support the establishment of a codified personal status law to guarantee the rights of women in marriage and divorce, ensuring that such a law is based upon principles of equality and non-discrimination. 

I thank you for your attention.

Sincerely yours,

Cc: The Human Rights Commission (email: hrc@haq-ksa.org)
 

U.S. Members Urgent Alert: Equality Now calls on the U.S. Senate to pass the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2010 Aug 10

In November 2009, Equality Now issued an urgent alert calling on the U.S. Senate to pass the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009 (S. 987/H.R. 2103) (the “Act”). Major provisions of the Act were included in the State Department Reauthorization Bill which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in June 2009. The Act has garnered a great deal of support in the Senate and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and we are hopeful that the legislation will be passed into law this year.

What You Can Do: 

As a part of efforts to curb child marriage, Equality Now urges its Women’s Action Network members in the U.S. to call upon their U.S. Senators to cosponsor the Act (S. 987/H.R.2103) and urge members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to ensure that the Act is taken up by the Committee in September. Click here to find your Senators’ contact information. TAKE ACTION!

Sample letter

 

Urgent Alert: Saudi Arabia: Urgent Call for Annulment of Marriage of 10-Year-Old Girl

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2009 Jun 1

Amneh Mohamed Sharahili, a 10-year-old Saudi schoolgirl, has been married off by her father to a 25-year-old Saudi man. Although Amneh’s marriage contract was executed in mid-February 2009, she has not yet been handed over to her husband and continues to live with her parents. Her father intends to hand her over in July 2009. Amneh, who is eager to continue school and eventually become a teacher, does not quite comprehend what it means to be married.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the King of Saudi Arabia asking him to issue an edict establishing a minimum age of marriage and banning all child marriages. Call upon him to take urgent action to annul the marriage of Amneh and all other child brides whose marriage contracts have been executed, but who have yet to be handed over to their husbands. Also ask him to ensure that child brides already living with their husbands are given a real choice to annul their marriages and, if they opt for annulment, to ensure that this happens swiftly without negative repercussions on the girls. Please also urge the King to support the establishment of a codified personal status law to guarantee the rights of women in marriage and divorce, ensuring that such law is based upon principles of equality and non-discrimination. Please send a similar letter to the Minister of Justice. Letters should go to:

His Majesty, King Abdullah bin Abdul
Aziz Al Saud
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 491 2726

His Excellency Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul
El Karim AbdulAzziz El Issa
Minister of Justice
University Street, Riyadh 11137
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 401 1741

With a copy to:

The Human Rights Commission
P.O. Box 58889 Riyadh 11515
King Fahed Street
Building 373
Riyadh
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Email: hrc@haq-ksa.org

Sample letter
 

Yemen: End early marriages by enacting and enforcing a minimum age of marriage law

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2010 Apr 1

In the past month, Equality Now has been informed of a number of cases of young Yemeni girls who have undergone or been at risk of early and forced marriage which has left them subject to some of its many harmful consequences. 

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the Yemeni President, Minister of Justice and the Speaker of the House asking them to ensure that the early marriage bill is considered and passed by parliament as soon as possible. Call upon them also to ensure effective enforcement of this law, once passed, including through mandatory registration of all marriages and punishment for those in violation. TAKE ACTION!

Letters should be addressed to:

Mr. Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi
President of the Republic of Yemen
President Residence
60 Street
Sana’a, Yemen
Fax: +967 1 274 147

Mr. Ghazi Al Ghabari
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
Justice Street
Sana’a, Yemen
Fax: +967 1 252 138
Tel: +967 1 252 136/7/9

Mr. Yahya Ali Al Raei
Speaker of the House
Yemeni Parliament
26 September Street
Sana’a, Yemen
Fax: +967 1 276 091
Email: info@yemenparliament.org

Sample letter

Yemen: End early marriages through enactment of law enforcing a minimum age of marriage

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2009 Nov 1

On 11 September 2009, Fawziya Abdullah Youssef, a 12-year-old Yemeni girl married to a 25-year-old, farmer died in childbirth after 3 days of painful labor resulting in a stillbirth at al-Zahra district hospital in Hodeida province in Yemen. The previous year, Fawziya’s father had pulled her out of school and married her at the age of 11.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the Yemeni President, Minister of Justice and the Speaker of the House asking them to ensure the swift passage of a law which provides for a minimum age of marriage of 18 years with appropriate penalties for violation of this law. Call upon them also to ensure effective enforcement of this law, once passed, including through mandatory registration of all marriages. Please also write to the Minister of Public Health and Population and urge him to ensure that the Ministry of Health endorses 18 years as the minimum age of marriage in accordance with Yemen’s obligations under international law. Letters should go to:

General Ali Abdullah Saleh
President of the Republic of Yemen
President Residence
60 Street
Sana’a, Yemen
Fax: +967 1 274 147

Mr. Ghazi Al Ghabari
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice Justice Street
Sana’a, Yemen
Fax: +967 1 252 138
Tel: +967 1 252 136/7/9

Mr. Yahya Ali Al Raei
Speaker of the House
Yemeni Parliament
26 September Street
Sana’a, Yemen
Fax: +967 1 276 091
Email: info@yemenparliament.org

Prof. Dr. Abdul Karim Yehia Rasa
Minister of Public Health and Population
Ministry of Public Health and Population
El Hisbah Directorate
Sana’a, Yemen
Tel:- +967 1 252 241
Fax: +967 1 252 247
Email: akrasae@yahoo.com

 

Letters: 

Sample Letter President/Minister of Justice/Speaker of the House:

[Date]

[Dear President/Minister of Justice/Speaker of the House],

I am writing to express my deep concern about the issue of early marriage in Yemen following the death of Fawziya Abdullah Youssef, a 12 year old girl who was pulled out of school in 2008 and married to an older man when she was 11 years old. After 3 days of painful labor she died in childbirth and her baby was stillborn. In another case, a 14 year old girl called Asghan was married when she was 12 years old and has twice run back to her family from her husband’s house. Her father threatened to kill her and divorce her mother in order to put pressure on Asghan to return to her husband and Asghan was only given a reprieve to stay with her family till she is 17 years old after the intervention of the Taiz governorate. Girls such as these and many others need the help of the government so they can continue to enjoy their childhoods. I understand that up to 50% of all Yemeni girls are married before the age of eighteen.

International organizations such as World Health Organization, UNICEF and UNFPA have underscored the negative physical, emotional, psychological, intellectual and sexual implications of child marriage on girls, including death due to early pregnancy and deprivation of education. I urge you to take urgent action to ensure that Yemen passes a law setting 18 years as a minimum age of marriage in line with Yemen’s international commitments, and to ensure effective enforcement of this law, including by requiring that all marriages are registered and prosecuting and punishing all those who violate the law.

I thank you for your attention.

Sincerely yours,

_________________________

 

Sample Letter Minister of Public Health and Population:

Prof. Dr. Abdul Karim Yehia Rasae
Minister of Public Health and Population
Ministry of Public Health and Population
El Hisbah Directorate
Sana’a, Yemen
Fax: +967 1 252 247
akrasae@yahoo.com

Dear Minister,

I am writing to express my deep concern about the issue of early marriage in Yemen following the death of Fawziya Abdullah Youssef, a 12 year old who was pulled out of school last year and married to an older man when she was 11 years old. After 3 days of painful labor she died in childbirth and her baby was stillborn. I understand that up to 50% of all Yemeni girls are married before the age of eighteen.

UNICEF and UNFPA have underscored the negative physical, emotional, psychological, intellectual and sexual implications of child marriage on children and pointed out that it is a violation of their human rights. Early pregnancy is a leading cause of death among girls. Early marriage also deprives a girl of education and severely jeopardizes her right to mental, emotional and physical well-being. According to the World Health Organization and UNFPA, early marriage can lead to numerous negative medical outcomes for both mother and child, such as low birth weight, preterm labor, stillbirths, perinatal deaths, pregnancy-induced hypertension, puerperal sepsis, septic abortion and obstetric fistula, and a resulting high rate of maternal and child mortality.

It has come to my attention that Parliament has asked your ministry for advice on establishing a minimum age of marriage. I urge you to follow internationally recognized standards, including those in instruments ratified by Yemen, and recommend 18 years as the minimum age for marriage in Yemen.

I thank you for your attention.

Sincerely yours,

 

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