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

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Action Number: 
34.4
Date: 
19 Sep 2013

10 DECEMBER 2013 UPDATE: Two weeks ago, a young man reached out to the Yemeni Ministry of Human Rights to stop the marriage of his 11-year-old sister, Nada (not her real name) to her 23-year-old cousin. While the Ministry has intervened in cases like this before and stopped parents from marrying off young girls, they were unable to stop Nada’s marriage as her father refused to relent and there is no law against child marriage. Yemeni Human Rights Minister Hooria Mashhour, who has been consistently raising awareness of this issue in the media, stated that as long as there is no minimum age of marriage in Yemen, her power to stop these marriages is severely limited.

Minister Mashhour continues to call for the reintroduction of the 2009 parliamentary bill that would effectively ban child marriages in the country. Equality Now and our partners, Yemeni Women Union (YWU) and Arab Human Rights Foundation (AHRF), support the Minister in her efforts to ensure that the government of Yemen lives up to its obligations under international law by passing a law prohibiting child marriage so that girls are no longer forced to undergo its harmful physical and psychological effects. Please help us renew the call upon the government of Yemen to make the rights of women and girls a priority, to pass and enforce a law prohibiting child marriage, and to ensure the safety and human rights of child brides who have ended their marriages.


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Wafa
Wafa, child bride

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. - Wafa, 11-year-old child bride, Yemen

Recent coverage in the press has highlighted the issue of child marriage in Yemen and underscored the devastating impact the practice can have on girls. Equality Now has been informed of a number of cases of young Yemeni girls who have undergone or been at risk of child marriage which has left them subject to many harmful consequences.

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to sign the petition.

  • 11-year-old Wafa was married in 2010 to a 40-year-old farmer who repeatedly raped and tortured her. Equality Now and local partner Yemeni Women Union (YWU) were successful in arranging for a lawyer to take up her case and helped her to obtain a divorce.
  • 11-year-old Safiyeh was married in 2010 to an older man and was hospitalized with injuries to her genitals caused during sexual intercourse. Due to the intervention of YWU she was granted a divorce.
  • 13-year-old Ilham was married in 2010 to an older man. She died three days after marriage due to excessive bleeding caused by a tear to her genitals during sexual intercourse.
  • 10-year-old Sally Al-Sabahi was married in 2010 and beaten and raped repeatedly by her husband. She was subsequently granted a divorce.
  • 11-year-old Sarah was found in 2010 to have been imprisoned and chained by her father in an effort to force her into marriage.
  • 12-year-old Salwa committed suicide in 2010 by throwing herself from the roof of her house after being forced into marriage by her father.
  • 13-year-old Hind was married off in 2009 by her father and uncles to a 70-year-old man and tried running away from her abuser but was caught by an uncle who kept her chained in the house for months. She was finally freed in March 2010.
  • 11-year-old Fawziya Abdullah Youssef was married off by her father in 2009 to a 25-year-old farmer. The following year she died in childbirth after three days of painful labor resulting in a stillbirth.
  • 11-year-old Reem was married off by her father in 2008 to her 31-year-old cousin. She ran away from her abusive husband a week after marriage and was subsequently granted a divorce.
  • 10-year-old Nujood Ali was married off by her parents in 2008 to an abusive husband. After her parents told her that they could not help her escape as she was now her husband’s property, she took a cab and went to court by herself and obtained a divorce.

Since 2009, Equality Now and Yemen Women’s Union (YWU) have been calling on the Yemeni government to take immediate steps to protect Yemeni girls from the harmful consequences of child marriage. Despite the media attention received by some of the highlighted cases, in particular those of Nujood and Reem, the Yemeni government has not passed a law setting a minimum age of marriage. Equality Now issued Women’s Action 34.1 (November 2009), Action Update 34.2 (April 2010) and Action Update 34.3 (May 2012) calling on the Government of Yemen to prevent child marriages by enacting and enforcing a law establishing a minimum age of marriage. 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) Committee in October 2010.

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 (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) both of which contain provisions against child marriage or practices prejudicial to the health of children. In 2012, the UN Human Rights Committee in its examination of Yemen’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) expressed its concern that “a minimum age for marriage has still not been set and encounters great resistance in the Parliament” and called on Yemen to “set a minimum age for marriage that complies with international standards.”

In a promising new development Yemeni Human Rights Minister Hooria Mashhour has requested the reintroduction of the 2009 parliamentary bill that would effectively ban child marriages in the country. Equality Now and YWU support the Minister in her efforts to ensure that the government of Yemen lives up to its obligations under international law by passing a law prohibiting child marriage so that girls are no longer forced to undergo the harmful physical and psychological effects of child marriage.

Please join Equality Now and YWU in calling upon the government of Yemen to make the rights of women and girls a priority, to pass and enforce a law prohibiting child marriage, and to ensure the safety and human rights of child brides who have ended their marriages.

What You Can Do: 

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to sign the petition.

  • Contact the Yemeni President, Prime Minister and the Speaker of the House and ask them to:
  1. Ensure that the draft bill banning child marriage is 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 them with safe accommodation, education and counseling.
  • Help us spread the word about this campaign by sharing this Action with your friends.

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

Mohammed Salem Basindwa
Prime Minister
Fax: +967 1 282 686

Mr. Yahia El Raei
Speaker of the House
Yemeni Parliament
26 September Street
San’a, Yemen
Fax: +967 1 271 102

With a copy to: Minister Hooria Mashhour, Minister of Human Rights, Al-Steen Street, Sana'a, Yemen, Telephone: +967 1 444 834, Fax: +967 1 444 833, Email: ramif1973@yahoo.com

Letters: 

Dear President/Prime Minister/Speaker of the House:

cc: Minister of Human Rights

I am deeply concerned about the prevalence of child marriage in Yemen. Reports from both Yemeni human rights groups and the press have highlighted a number of cases of young Yemeni girls who have undergone or been at risk of child marriage which has left them subject to many harmful and sometimes fatal, consequences. Yet, to date, the government has not passed a law setting a minimum age of marriage. While government officers have been intervening in individual cases of child marriage, their power to stop these marriages is severely limited without a law banning child marriages.

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. Passing it without delay would be a first step to helping girls escape abuse and allowing them to fulfill their potential. Banning 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. In 2012, the UN Human Rights Committee in its examination of Yemen’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) expressed its concern that “a minimum age for marriage has still not been set and encounters great resistance in the Parliament” and called on Yemen to “set a minimum age for marriage that complies with international standards.”

In a promising new development Yemeni Human Rights Minister Hooria Mashhour has requested the reintroduction of the 2009 parliamentary bill that would effectively ban child marriages in the country. I support the Minister in her efforts to ensure that the government of Yemen lives up to its obligations under international law by passing a law prohibiting child marriage so that girls are no longer forced to undergo the harmful physical and psychological effects of child marriage.

I urge you to ensure that the draft child marriage bill is passed by parliament as soon as possible. Once passed, please ensure the law’s effective enforcement and punishment for those in violation. In addition, 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,