Yemen has no legal minimum age of marriage, and cases of "child marriage" are common: research shows that the average age of marriage for girls in rural areas is around 12 years old - and up to half of all Yemeni girls are married before they turn 18. The Yemeni government has failed to take any action banning "child marriage."
Wafa’s case: "Child Marriage" in Yemen
2009: Wafa is forced into marriage
11-year-old Wafa is taken out of school and married off by her father to a 40-year-old farmer who paid her father 215,500 Yemen Riyal (US $913) as a down-payment for her dowry of 400,500 Yemen Riyal (US $1,692).
2010: Wafa escapes her marriage
After a year of marriage, during which she was violently beaten by her husband, Wafa escaped from her abusive situation and ran back to her parents’ house. By then, her father had passed away, and her mother is mentally unfit to help after years of enduring abuse herself. Wafa’s situation is so dire that she threatens threatened to kill herself if her family sends her back to her husband’s house.
With our partner Yemen Women Union (YWU), Equality Now becomes involved in Wafa’s case. We take on this case to assist Wafa in putting the trauma of child marriage behind her, and - building on our campaign to get Yemen to enact a law establishing a minimum age of marriage - to highlight the legal problems girls encounter in countries with no minimum age of marriage. Without a law banning child marriage or a remedy for child brides to get out of their marriages without having to pay back their dowry, girls like Wafa remain at risk of exploitation.
2011: Wafa is granted a divorce
A court in Hija province finally agrees to grant Wafa a divorce. While we and YWU wanted the court to grant the divorce without requiring Wafa to repay her dowry (money paid to a woman in consideration of marriage), the court unfortunately requires her to repay the money. Wafa’s father had spent the money before he passed away, and Wafa’s relative, acting under duress after being threatened by Wafa’s husband, borrows money to pay back the dowry, which undermines the attempts to appeal this condition of the divorce.
2013: "Child Marriage" ban re-introduced in Yemen
In a promising development, Yemeni Human Rights Minister Hooria Mashhour requests the reintroduction of a 2009 parliamentary bill that would effectively ban child marriage in the country. We and YWU support the Minister in her efforts in calling for renewed discussion of the child marriage legislation. We continue to work with the YWU to push for a minimum age of marriage law in Yemen.