May 14, 2010

Cruelty to children: Child marriage in Yemen

I have been reading about Elham Madhin al Assi, a 12-year-old Yemeni girl who died from internal bleeding just three days after her March 29th wedding to a man who is a minimum twice her age. And this happened as part of a bride swap, where in the brother of the bride marries the sister of the groom, and this happens irrespective of the age of concerned individuals. I do not know what to feel when I see something like this.  Elham Madhin al Assi's mother is said to have told reporters, that the criminal killed her. What criminal? What did you expect? A man who is marrying a 12 year old is marrying her to shower her with dolls!!! I wonder if she is really bothered with her daughter not being alive anymore, and does she feel any remorse of what she did? Or even better, did she have a say in the matter? Maybe I am being too harsh on her, and the mother's role is just to explain to the daughter what is expected of her, and that sex is a subset of marriage, so please oblige!

This custom has been there since ages, and it is said to be acceptable as per Islam, where a parent has the right to determine when their children ( read daughters) are ready for marriage! It is also said that one main reason for the girls to be married off early is that, in many cases young girls are abducted and married by force, which leaves their parents not knowing their whereabouts ever again. The average age of marriage in Yemen’s rural areas is 12 to 13, a recent study by Sana University researchers found, and even more shocking is that the country has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. And, I am sure that the mothers are also of the age group,  12 - 15 years.

How many of these kids can be expected to come out of their captive, abusive, illegal marriages and say that they want to study, and lead a life different from what they have been forced into without being asked. They are children, and not many of the children I see have it in them to stand up and say I shall not do this or to ensure that they are not made to do something which they are not interested in, especially when done so by their parents itself. Children see parents as the ones they trust the most, and believe, then how can they expect that a marriage, even if done without their consent, can be a disastrous life changing turn in their lives? Isn't it cruel to push them towards something which has seen only bad days, and to top it when they trust you so much!?


  1. Well child marriages exist in every society..rajasthan ( hindus).....buti think in socities like rajasthan two kids marry...and if even they make love, it would not be brutal...

    places like yemen are backward...and so it will take time..

    you can see news from saudi where fathers over 60 swap young daughters to get married...

  2. Hmm.I think it still exists in our country.
    I think there is a news article about it in Todays News paper..
    The Times Of India - bangalore Edition. about marriage happened in Rajasthan.

    I think people and Organizations, the NGOS should take proactive steps in curbing such situations

  3. What I never understand is, why is it important to get the girls married so young. If they are at the parents house, what is it that can go so drastically wrong? In fact in Yemen, where there is a reason, which is that young girls are being kidnapped and hence they see them to be married a safer option, a better deal than the way it is done in India, where it is just seen as a custom which was being followed and is being blindly followed.

    I wonder how much an NGO is able to do if the girls are married off in a matter of hours/days, I do not think any NGO can be posted at a village and safeguard children. It is the duty of the parents and unless they are made to understand their responsibility, and that getting them married does not end their responsibilities, maybe then things might just change!

  4. One word for it! height of illiteracy in moslim world :(

  5. Marriage between two children is less brutal. Also although we have some customs, if they wish to - parents can do a lot to help the child at any age.

    My domestic helper from Orissa was married at 12 to another kid. Later she grew much taller than her husband and refused to go with him. She met another man from her own community and was married to him with everybody's blessings.

    After five kids, when his beatings started becoming dangerous (he broke one of her ribs etc) her father in law and older brother in law felt she would be safer at her parents house. Her parents sent her to Delhi to stay with her sister and here after a while her sister arranged her marriage with an unmarried Nepali man.

    Her story shows that those who use custom are just looking for excuses to do nothing. I am sure Yemen also has parents who - even if they have to marry a young girl wouldn't marry her to an old man, and they need not send her to her husband's house until she is older. (Gauna is a custom in some parts of India where a married girl is sent to her husband's house only after she is 16 or so. )

    Also Islam gives a girl the right to give her permission for getting married. I had read about it earlier and recently watched Khuda ke liye where Nasiruddin Shah makes it very, very clear that is not permitted to a girl to agree with or refuse to marry a man, but 'uska haqu hai' (IT'S HER RIGHT)... so if parents really care for their children (daughters) they can support them.

  6. u have become a damn good sociologist aathira


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