Yemen, law against child-brides also hostage to Houthis

Constitutional provision on age-limit for marriage (18) at risk

16 February, 18:54

    Crisis in Yemen Crisis in Yemen

    (ANSAmed) - DUBAI, FEBRUARY 16 - In the wake of the political and military chaos Yemen has plunged into in the last few weeks, there is a hostage scarcely talked about on the covers of the international media: the stolen adolescence of thousands of girls forced into arranged-marriages from the age of 10.

    The dissolution of parliament on February 6 following the ascent to power of Houthi rebels puts on hold the hard-fought battle to set a legal minimum age for marriages. The limit was established at 18 years, in line with international standards, by a provision of article 124 of the new Constitution, born out of the national dialogue initiated in 2013 after the fall of president Ali Abdullah Al Salah. The provision put an end to a legislative void that allowed tribal law to dispose of the lives of young girls. Fathers driven by ignorance, tradition and poverty were granted the right to rule over the future of their daughters . Marrying off a daughter means receiving a dowery in exchange and these sums of money represent much needed relief for poverty-stricken families.

    Newspaper Gulf News reports that after their take-over Houthis have not contested the new constitutional status. So far, at least.

    The decision to introduce an age-limit was rapidly taken according to an account made by one of the members of the constitutional commission. Olfat Al Doubai told the Emirati newspaper that the provision was contested only by a handful of intransigent Islamists.

    In the last three years, following the case of the "fugitive" bride who managed to escape from her forced marriage, the reality of "child-brides", increasingly denounced by the international community, has become one of the most hotly contested topics in Yemeni society. Data provided by Human Rigth Watch, one of the most active human rights organizations on this topic, indicates that 14% of young Yemeni women become brides between the ages of 10 and 15 while 52% of them wears a wedding ring before the age of 18.

    The consequences go beyond psychological shock and lead to permanent disablement. In some instances, girls died on their first wedding night or suffered irreparable injuries to their reproductive organs. In other case, several girls died a few months after their weddings on child-birth.

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