Child marriages rise as families struggle to cope in Yemen

By October 22, 2020

Yemen (CAP) — Nezar* left his country, Yemen, and is now living in Europe. In Europe, he left Islam and became a follower of Jesus. Now he tries to help the Yemeni people however he can while living abroad. Heʼs worried about his country and the deep poverty caused by the war, which has been going on since March 2015. One consequence of the war particularly concerns him: a growing number of child marriages.

It can be hard for anyone to understand why fathers are marrying their young daughters to elderly men in 2020. Although historically even in many Western countries, it wasnʼt unusual for young girls to be married off to elderly men, these countries have now largely ended child marriage. However, strict Islamic countries have struggled to abolish the practice due to legalistic interpretations of Islam that forbid any deviation from cultural norms practiced by Arab tribes a thousand years ago.

Such was the case in 1999 when Yemenʼs parliament cited religious grounds as it abolished article 15 of Yemenʼs Personal Status Law, which set the minimum age for marriage for boys and girls at 15. Since then, Yemen has had no minimum age for marriage. Human Rights Watch (HRW) points out that while now “boys or girls can be married at any age, in practice it is girls who are most often married young, often to much older men.”

Photo courtesy of International Christian Response

Today, international organizations such as UNICEF, regard marriage by a person below the age of 18 to be a child marriage and a violation of human rights. According to UNICEF, Yemen remains one of only a handful of nations in the region without a legal minimum age for marriage. Yet even without a legal basis, in rare cases, Yemeni officials have been known to intervene on behalf of very young girls whose cases come to their attention.

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*Pseudonyms used to protect the identity of partners working in sensitive contexts.

 

 

Header image courtesy of Prayercast.