Yemen: New Report on Child Marriage
Friday, December 16, 2011 12:00 PM

Human Rights Watch’s new report, “’How Come You Allow Little Girls to Get Married?’ Child Marriage in Yemen” illustrates the dangers of eliminating a legal minimum age for marriage. In 1999, Yemen abolished the previous minimum age of 15 for both boys and girls. Now, 14% of girls under the age of 15 are married, and over half of girls under the age of 18 are married. Research for the report, including interviews with girls, women married as children, members of nongovernmental organizations, and staff of the Health and Education Ministries, highlights the psychological and physical dangers of child marriage.

Other research, such as that conducted by Save the Children, indicates that marriage of young girls increases their risk of reproductive health problems and gender-based violence. This is supported by the Human Rights Watch report, in which married girls report that they are subject to domestic abuse and sexual violence. Moreover, they often have little education and limited control over the number and spacing of children.

Tawakkol Karman, the recent Nobel Peace Prize recipient, has called on the new Yemen government to set the minimum age for marriage at 18. “International donors invest millions of dollars on education and health reform in Yemen. Without a ban on child marriage, none of the international aid will prevent girls from being forced to leave school and from health risks of child marriage,” Karman said. Karman further argues that Sharia law (Islamic law) does not prohibit setting a minimum age for marriage, and Yemen’s membership to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women requires the legislation.

Compiled from: Yemen: Child Marriage Spurs Abuse of Girls and Women, Human Rights Watch (8 December 2011).