Yemen: Islamic Clerics Oppose Minimum Marriage Age
Monday, March 29, 2010 4:40 PM

Some Islamic clerics in Yemen have issued a decree condeming a law, passed in February 2009, which sets the minimum age of marriage at 17 for girls and at 18 for boys. The decree declares the law un-Islamic and supporters of the law apostates.

Both supporters and opponents of the law have demonstrated outside parliament. The February 2009 law was repealed and sent back to parliament's constitutional committee, whose members include some of the clerics who signed the decree opposing the law. The committee's final decision is expected in April.

Child marriages are common in Yemen and have been attributed in part to poverty.  One negative consequence of child marriage, among many others, is that young girls are getting pregnant and face severe complications while giving birth. 

In September 2009, a 12-year-old child bride and her baby died after three days of labor. According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), girls who give birth before reaching age 15 are five times more likely to die during childbirth than women in their twenties. UNICEF estimates that for every 100,000 live births in Yemen, 430 women and girls die from pregnancy-related causes. According to Human Rights Watch, Yemen's maternal mortality rate is among the highest in the world. Only 27% of secondary school-aged Yemeni girls attend secondary school.

Yemen is a State Party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Compiled from: Ahmed Al-Haj & Hadeel Al-Shalchi, Islamic clerics in Yemen oppose child bride ban, The Toronto Star (22 March 2010); Lara Setrakian, The Painful Death of a Yemen Child Bride, ABC News (14 September 2009); Naseem-Ur-Rehman, A brave young girl who defied child marriage brings change to Yemen, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) (24 July 2009); At a Glance: Yemen: Statisitcs, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) (2 March 2010); 2010 World Report Chapter: YemenHuman Rights Watch (January 2010); Status of Treaties: Convention on the Rights of the Child, United Nations (accessed 25 March 2010).