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YEMEN: Unrest puts child marriage issue on back burner


Hello bloggers!  In continuation of our journey through Global Communication, I have chosen an interesting article for all of us to ponder on. This week, we are going to be discussing Globalization and Political Unrest as it relates to gender.

Yemen has been experiencing political unrest for many years with rebels in the southern part of the country fighting for independences. The Arab spring has also brought calls from the people for the president to go, with the people favoring democracy instead. In a country already riddled with poverty unemployment and widespread corruption, this is a huge yoke on them. This has led to a standstill in other areas of life, legislation being one of them. A consequence is the situation painted in the article. The story is very compelling and I want you all to read it and reflect on the issue raised.

 The story here has raised some question, which I would want you to ponder on when going through this article.

1. Is it proper for the girls in Yemen to bear the brunt for the political unrest?

2. Is it even right for the girl child to be sold to the highest bidder just because the family is poor and go through the physical and psychological damage?

3. Is this huge injustice against the girl child and the price they pay with their own freedom and life less important than the fight for political freedom?

4. Do you think that our course and what we have learnt so far through the rich topics (Sidling up to differences, Globalization, One story, Policy vs. Politics, etc.) and our insightful discussions in class have influenced the way you look at and analyze issues, people, and cultures other than yours?  How so?

 DHAMAR, 22 December 2011 (IRIN) – Poverty and unemployment, exacerbated by the current political unrest, are driving up child marriages in Dhamar Governorate and elsewhere in Yemen, says Asmaa al-Masri, a sociologist at Dhamar University.

 Several hundred girls in Dhamar have been forced into early marriages because their families need money, she told IRIN. “The number of child marriage victims is increasing, but no one pays attention to the problem because of the political unrest.”

 Draft legislation on “safe motherhood”, including articles banning child marriages, has not been debated as a result of the ongoing political unrest which interrupted parliament business, said MP Mohammed Qowarah, adding: “If there had been no protests, the parliament would have taken good steps towards tackling the phenomenon.”

 Figures on the extent of early marriage in Yemen vary, but all indicators suggest the problem is widespread. A 2009 report by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour estimated that 25 percent of all females marry before the age of 15.

According to an 8 December report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), the turmoil which has swept Yemen since early 2011 has overshadowed the plight of child brides.

 “Marrying early cut short their education,” said the report. “Some said they had been subjected to marital rape and domestic abuse. There is no legal minimum age for girls to marry in Yemen. Many girls are forced into marriage and some are as young as eight.”

 Yemen’s political crisis has left child marriage at the bottom of the political agenda, said Nadya Khalife, an HRW women’s rights researcher covering the Middle East and North Africa.

 “But now is the time to move on this issue, setting the minimum age for marriage at 18, to ensure that girls and women, who played a major role in Yemen’s protest movement, will also contribute to shaping Yemen’s future,” she said.

 According to Widad al-Badwi, a human rights activist, many rape and early marriage crimes go unreported in Yemen.

“Women are oppressed,” said al-Badwi, who participated in the launch of a 16-day nationwide awareness campaign in the media by the UN Population Fund, UNFPA, from 25 November to 10 December aimed at fighting domestic violence.

 The HRW report concluded that girls are being forced into marriage by their families, and then having no control over whether and when to bear children and other important aspects of their lives.


 “Marriage of child girls is most often short-lived. It ends up in the child bride having trauma after being raped or abused by the husband,” said sociologist al-Masri.

 According to Arwa Omar, a social science teacher with more than 20 years experience in several all-girl schools in the capital Sana’a, child marriage is commonplace but ends up in failure.

 “In some tribal communities, girls are engaged even at age five, but marriage may take place just four or five years later,” Omar said. “Child brides feel happy with the new clothes and jewelry they get ahead of the wedding party. But later on, they pay a big price for that… A child girl gets nothing from marriage except dropping out of school and having trauma.”

 Mohammed Ali Nasser, a judge at Dhamar Governorate’s penal court, said a dozen child marriage contracts had been annulled by the court in the past three months.

 “Child marriages fail as child brides often run away,” he told IRIN. Such cases end up in court, with the husband usually claiming parents of the bride should repay him for the cost of the wedding (up to the equivalent of US$4,500), he added.

 Health risks

 “Birth-related complications are common among underage mothers in Yemen. Many cases of child mothers under age 15 died in labour,” said Intesar Ali, an obstetrics and gynaecology specialist at the government-run al-Thawrah Hospital in Sana’a.

 A report by the World Population Foundation says girls aged 15-19 are twice as likely to die in childbirth as those in their twenties, and girls under 15 are five times as likely to die as those in their twenties.

 According to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Yemeni women face a lifetime risk of maternal death, which is nearly four times higher than the average for the region. The rate of infant mortality is around 60 deaths per 1,000 live births, which is among the highest worldwide.

 “International donors invest millions of dollars on education and health reform in Yemen,” HRW’s Khalife said. “Without a ban on child marriage, none of the international aid will prevent girls from being forced to leave school and from the health risks of child marriage.”

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and comments Globocommunicators! ^___^

YEMEN: Unrest puts child marriage issue on back burner



  1. Laura Chechette says:

    1. No it is not proper for the girls in Yemen to bear the brunt for the political unrest, but I’m also not sure that MP Mohammed Qowarah’s statement: “If there had been no protests, the parliament would have taken good steps towards tackling the phenomenon.,” is 100% true either. What would these “good steps” be? How long would it take to implement these “good steps?” I think he is using the political protests as an excuse to explain their lack of action. If people in Yemen were really concerned about child marriage then they would organize a protest about “safe motherhood” as well as the other issues. Also if the government in Yemen can’t protect these young girls I’m surprised that another international group hasn’t stepped in and at least brought more media attention to this issue. I’ll be honest and say that this is the first I am hearing about it, but this article was written more than 2 months ago.
    2. No it is not right for a girl to be sold to the highest bidder. I can’t imagine the kind of parents that would think that selling their daughter is the best solution to their financial problems. By selling their daughters at such a young age they are only continuing the horrible cycle because when that 10 year old girl has a daughter at age 12 and maybe survives child birth, she will probably need to sell her own daughter in a few years to cover her own financial problems. I think some sort of birth control education is necessary in Yemen. I believe the majority of residents of Yemen are Muslim and I’m not sure what rules the Qur’an may have about birth control, but if the girls in Yemen were able to prevent pregnancy until they were old enough to bear children then the survival rate for the mother and future for that child would be much better than if they have children at age 10, 12, 15, etc.
    3. I think that this injustice is just as important as the fight for political freedom. These girls are the next generation of women in Yemen and even if in their culture and government right now they can’t participate as equals with the men, if the fight for political freedom is successful then you will need women who have been educated past age 8. For a society to progress and make change education for both girls and boys needs to be a priority.
    4. Yes I think our coursework and discussion has influenced the way that I analyze other people, cultures, etc., but I think that I am also more annoyed and angry at times as well. I think I am more careful about the way I voice my opinion because I am honestly not trying to offend anyone and I am more open minded because I realize there is a lot I don’t know about other cultures and I want to learn more. I do get annoyed and angry sometimes though because A) I am unaware of many of issues we are discussing and appalled they these types of things happen in other parts of the world and B) there is no quick fix or easy way to solve these problems.

    • KSA ROCKS! says:

      Loura, you have given a very long response to these questions. I believe it is because you have thought deeply about them. I am also going to give lengthy responses to your views. (Fair is fair, right)
      1- Yes, Loura, you are absolutely correct. The MP was definitely trying to gain a cheap political point by giving the protest as an excuse. This is a practice that has been on well before the protests started. Unfortunately, we can’t trust the people in Yemen to organize a demonstration on this matter because the reason given for the widespread is the rampant poverty among the people. They are the ones benefiting from this illicit act and they are not likely to demonstrate on it. The onus is on the government to protect the people. I also think that international organizations should put pressure on the government to check this before it causes more harm to Yemen’s women than it has already done. I think this article is a good start. I believe that other people like us would read this article and feel the same way we feel on this matter and spread the word. What even stops us from taking the lead?

      2- Again Loura, I agree with you on this point. This is a vicious cycle that would be propagated from generation to generation if it goes on unchecked. And the danger is that the longer the people persist with this, the more comfortable they would be with it and so the harder it would be for them to stop. We might be making an excuse for them for engaging in this act because of poverty but the question is that if the economic fortunes of Yemen changes in the nearest future, would the people desist from this act? No, I don’t think so. This is the more reason why it should be nipped in the bud before further damage is done. On your views about birth control in Yemen, I’m not sure about that. But the key still lies in women empowerment. Even if religion is silent on the issue of birth control, an empowered woman would still be able to choose what is right for her considering her circumstances.

      3- Indeed, an issue affecting the next generation of Yemen should not be relegated to the background while the fight for political freedom is on-going. This issue needs to be brought to the fore, to be confronted at the same time as the political struggle.

      4- Well Loura, I don’t think anger is the best response to these issues. It would certainly have no effect if you do not actually take action on these issues. It is good that you accept the fact that you do not know a lot about other cultures. At least you know your limits and you have to go an extra mile to overcome it. (not by being angry but by taking action)

      Thanks ^_^

  2. Andres Leon says:

    1. Absolutely not. I don’t think children should bear the brunt of political unrest; however, if it is inevitable for ‘someone’ to bear the brunt of social unrest it shouldn’t be those who are most vulnerable and in this incapable of defending themselves.
    2.No, I don’t think that humans should be sold under any circumstance.
    3. I don’t think that that the ‘freedom’ and ‘life’ of children is less important than the fight for ‘political freedom.’ I think that any society that deprives its most vulnerable members of these basic human rights cannot consider itself a guardian of freedom and life.
    4. Indeed, Mohammed’s lecture was insightful about the differences between policy and politics. In Yemen’s case , and according to this article, the political problem is that children have been disenfranchised to alleviate economic hardship. As a result Yemen is in need of a policy that will protect children from being forced into marriage.

    • KSA ROCKS! says:

      Thank you Andres for your very summarized response. Your points were very succinct.
      Well, as it turns out, the weakest link always bears the brunt. In this case, they are the female children of Yemen. That is why the authorities have to protect them.
      And on the fourth question, I think what you meant to say is that the political problem is that the female children have been marginalized, or even better still, used as a tool to alleviate the economic hardship. To disenfranchise means to prevent from voting. That would be inappropriate for this discourse. But you are right in prescribing that a policy needs to be in place to protect these children.

      Thanks =->

      • Andres Leon says:

        Hey Maha—
        I looked further into this topic and came across some startling data. According to UNICEF, globally it is estimated that 14 million girls between 15 and 19 years old give birth each year. UNICEF notes that “girls in this age group are twice as likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth as women in their twenties.” (UNICEF: Child Protection Information Sheet

        In regards to global communication, UNICEF is involved in communication campaigns around the world that promote both policy and cultural change. Specifically, UNICEF’s campaign has focused on legislation and enforcement, cultural customs and practices as well as monitoring reporting and oversight. UNICEF’s approach to this issue certainly involves the policy and political issues that Mohammed presented to our class.

        One other thing I learned about this issue is that a global policy that protects children from child marriage has been in place since 1948. The United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights specifically protects children from this abuse; however, as is the case in Yemen, not all countries adhere to this human rights principle.

        Moreover, disenfranchisement is also used to describe when people are deprived of any civil right–in general. In this case children in Yemen are being deprived of the right to have free will and full consent to a marriage.

    • KSA ROCKS! says:

      Hi Andres,
      First of all, I appreciate it that you took the initiative to research more about this matter. This shows your interest on this issue.
      As it turns out, Yemen does have child protection laws, which were probably a result of the UN mandate. For example, Act 30 of the Yemeni Constitution states that “The state shall protect mothers and children, and shall sponsor the young” and Article 6 of the Rights of the Child Act states that “‘any authority’ making decisions about family law must make the protection of children his first priority” (Yale University, 2005).
      Apparently, although there are laws to protect children, these laws are not properly implemented because the Yemeni government has not created any system for the facilitation of government intervention in cases where children are neglected or abused. This in turn is probably due to the fact that as an Islamic and Arab nation, the Yemeni government tries to avoid any interference with the family structure. In addition, with Yemen being one of the poorest countries, they would rather prioritize the use of their resources on meeting the people’s basic needs for water, food, and healthcare.
      With regards to the use of the word disenfranchisement, it is usually associated to the deprivation of the right to vote. However, I agree that its general meaning is a deprivation of a legal right, immunity, or privilege (Disenfranchise, 2012).

  3. sonigreca says:

    1. Of course not!! No one should bear the brunt for the political unrest, especially young girls in Yemen’s case… I agree with Andres, it is so not fair for the most vulnerable people to bear such a brunt…
    2. Well, this question shouldn’t have been a question… I mean, why on the earth selling people should be a right thing to do??!! And bidding as if they are goods?… There are people in China stealing children and selling them too. I believe there are such people existing in other countries too… Bad karma pays off on those people who sell humans….
    3. When it comes political freedom, there is sacrifice… And it’s always the most vulnerable people who sacrifice… In Yemen, it is injustice that girl children sacrifice their freedom and life. In other countries, it could be old people, or blue collars… It’s not fair indeed… But how are you going to change it? I wish there is an answer to save these people..
    4. Oh absolutely yes. I knew many people held one story about my culture. But on the hand, I also had one story about other cultures that I haven’t really “explored”. I went to school in Italy with people from 90 different countries and cultures. I’ve learned a lot from them. But as I came to America, and read books in our Global Comm class. I realized that I’ve stereotyped some culture from my experience. After all, I’ve learned more stories about some cultures…

    • KSA ROCKS! says:

      Well, Sonigreca, I think you are not responding to the question in the right manner. We are examining the issue in the context of the situation, which is that Yemeni female children are being sold into marriage largely because of the adverse economic situation of the country. I don’t think anyone would agree that it’s the right thing to do (at least I don’t). The fact is that this is really happening and we are here to discuss it, not deny it. There is a need for something concrete to be done in this matter. It is not enough to pray that Bad karma pays off these people. I believe that there should be a concrete legislation prohibiting the act. Or what do you think, Sonigreca?

      For your response to #4, Well, I guess it is good to keep an open mind on other cultures. The truth is that everyone is bound to be naturally ethnocentric. But one has to make an effort to accommodate other people in this increasingly globalized world.

  4. zhoulinjolin says:

    1. Absolutely not. Women and children are vulnerable groups of society who need to be protected and cared for. Under the circumstance of political unrest, the society and international organizations should provide them higher level of protects instead of let them bear the brunt.
    2. The action of selling a girl child to the highest bidder is associated with slave trade. These young girls, like slaves in ancient times, are traded as goods and suffer physical and psychological damage. The society and even these girls’ parents take this trade for granted. Even, it could be possibly presumed that these girls in trade also naturally think that selling themselves is the only way to help their families make life. I think related international organizations need to step in to wake them up to protest and stop the ridiculous vicious circle.
    3.I think justice should be the aim of fighting for freedom. If the fight for freedom and life is premised on sacrifice of civilian’s justice and let people bear worse results of huge injustice, the fight loses its significance.
    4. Indeed. Through communicating with people of different culture with me, I am building up a more completed story of a country instead of holding one stroy. Reading articles and books of Global Comm, such as Do they hear you when you cry and the Yemen’s article, I got to know even today in some places of the world a lot of people are still treated in such an inhuman way, especially women and children. Access more knowledge about the world can help me think in a global way.

    • KSA ROCKS! says:

      1- Zhoulinjolin, I’m not really sure I get what you are proposing. Well, you are clear about your view that women and children are to be protected and cared for. But whom are you referring to by the word ‘society’. Is it the same people that are involved in the unrest?

      2- Thank you for bringing another perspective to the discussion. Yes, it is true that these girls even support it silently, thinking they are helping their family out. But this is just an assumption. And don’t forget that the issue is about girls being forced into marriage. So we have to believe that it is still against their will. Something really needs to be done to halt the ugly trend.

      3- Like Sonigreca said, some people always bear the brunt in political struggles. However, it is still the responsibility of the government to protect all the citizens.

      Thanks =-}

  5. tjglover23 says:

    1. No, but I don’t think it is them bearing the brunt of the unrest, I think people are using the unrest to slip under the radar. Since, the government is so concerned with the protesters they have allowed themselves to ignore issues that they felt weren’t as important, i.e. selling young girls into marriage. I am not saying it is right or that I agree with it because I don’t. I am just saying that is what I think is really going on.

    2. No. It is never right for any human being to be sold in any way shape or form as if they are less than. To sell someone tells the person being sold that you have a price and are not priceless which decreases ones self worth. Also, being poor is no excuse to sell your child or anyone and if the poverty rate is so bad the government needs to look at that too. I think the government is focused on the people protesting and not the root issues that have caused the protest.

    3. No, they are intertwined. The girls having the freedom to grow up and not become wives and mothers by force, is a political freedom and more importantly should be an important freedom.

    4. I am sure it does. I have become more culturally aware. I think most importantly, I have learned to keep my mouth shut. I think that just because you have an opinion does not mean you need to always express it. I don’t know every thing and I don’t pretend to. But in knowing what I don’t know, I know that being quite and listening is the only way I can learn so that I can make an educated opinion. I think in the case with the girls being sold, personally I think it is wrong, but I also know that I don’t have all the facts and I don’t know that culture.

    • KSA ROCKS! says:

      I think you make a very good point about more child marriages happening because of the political unrest; the children aren’t to blame. It is just the fact that the Yemeni government is primarily focused on the protestors, so this particular issue gets put by the wayside. I also love that you connected the plight of the girls with the political unrest happening in Yemen; the fight for political freedoms and human rights extends to them as well, and it is important to recognize that.

      You also make a good point about having informed opinions. I am all for freedom of speech, but it can sometimes hurt the conversation when objective facts are not recognized or known. That can color the conversation, and so people are operating with less than the truth – nothing productive comes of this stance. However, I feel as though there is the chance to make value judgments based on inalienable truths. You say that you don’t know the facts or culture, so you cannot say for sure that Yemeni child marriage is wrong. However, you do know enough facts from this article and other information to make informed opinions. I do agree that people should learn about things before judging, but you should be easier on yourself and trust that you have more information on these issues than you think.

      Thanks ^_*

  6. grabernieto says:

    Unfourtunetly around the globe children are the ones who pay the price and are affected the most. It is an issue that children dont have a say on how they lives are managed. We see this all across the globe, In south America where children get sell into slavery and in Africa where many enter the guerrilla to sustain their families. It is not fair that children have to carry the burden of their families for situations that for them is not comprensible. That is why is necessary to have regulations that protect children all across the globe. Regulations are needed to protect children’s lives and enssures them basic educational rights. Education is a necessity for any children regardless of background, education nurtures the future inhabitants of our planet. If we dont prepare future generations to understand how to handle our planet, it does ultimately have an impact.
    On another note, It is very oxymoronic that in Yemen, children have to pay a price with freedom when its inhabitants are seeking for freedom themselves. However, as a global citizen one neeeds to understand their perspective. Case in point, in Uzbekistan, women as young as 15 are kidnapped in order to be married to sometimes complete strangers. Its is a tradition that to some is a violation of human rights, but to the society of that country it is a custom that is ingrained with tradition. We do need to understand where many of these people come from before we start judging on their decisions. For Yemen, child brides is a tradition is something their culture is used to for many years. For a modern society these customes are bizzarre even illegal, but for them is something that provides them with a unique identity. Issues like these were tradition is compromise raises a lot of questions, should traditons be eliminated in order to allow modern views? Only time will be able to answers this questions. Fascinating topic thou!

    • KSA ROCKS! says:

      I agree that it is extremely sad that children do not get enough of a say in what they are allowed to do and how to manage their lives. The importance of education is completely evident from our point of view; the problem is that education seems to come secondary to these children’s weddings in Yemen, at least for the adults.

      You bring forth a lot of interesting facts about child welfare issues in South America and Uzbekistan; those are really interesting to read, and shows that there is a lot more to this issue than simply what happens in Yemen. The biggest obstacle to overcoming these human rights violations is for a cultural shift to occur. It cannot be forced by others imposing their values, but by the culture itself – otherwise, it will be seen as oppression and imperialism. You bring forth a lot of great points about being a global citizen, and viewing cultures through their own perspective.

      Thanks =-]

  7. Boon Han says:

    Hi Maha,

    I fully sympathize with the plight of the young girls and women in Yemen and support any initiative to right the injustices that they have suffered. However, I feel that if we really want to better understand the macro view of the situation in Yemen and get to the root of the problem, we really would have to look at all the issues from a different angle.

    I am almost 100% certain that every single person in our class would answer with a resounding NO to the first 2 questions as we look at what is happening in Yemen from the “Lens” of the societies which we all grew up in.

    However, Yemen is a different society from the one most of us grew up in. I’m not sure if everyone is familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which places human needs in a pyramid with Physiological Needs (breathing, food, water, sleep, etc) at the very bottom of the pyramid and then Safety (Security of body, property etc); Love/Belonging (friendship, family, sexual intimacy); Esteem (self esteem, confidence, respect of others); and finally Self-actualization (morality, lack of prejudice etc) at the very top. Maslow’s theory says that human needs at the bottom of the pyramid will need to be fulfilled first before humans will start to ponder the next level of needs.

    Thus, as most of us grew up in rather privileged societies where our basic needs of safety, love and esteem are all fulfilled, we are naturally looking at higher order things such as morality, equality, democracy etc. For someone growing up in a society whereby their most basic needs of food, water and security cannot even be guaranteed, morality and equality will probably be one of the last things on their minds.

    Until the problems of poverty, political stability and security of the people in Yemen are addressed, I would think it is a futile attempt to just focus the attention on helping the girls in Yemen. It would probably alleviate the situation temporarily but never be able to eradicate the problem totally until the natural order of things are set right.

    Every society will have to mature and evolve at a pace which they are comfortable with. By trying to impose what we feel is the most important and pressing issue to us on them, without considering what is the most important issue to them, the end result will probably end up rather differently from the desired outcome which we hope to see no matter how hard we try to make it happen.

    This is just my two cents worth…

    Sorry to have digressed a little from the main questions… Rather than just giving you the expected answers, I thought I would try to stir up some controversy here to make the discussion more interesting… 🙂

    • KSA ROCKS! says:

      For this being your ‘two cents worth,’ it is really quite valuable! You make excellent points about the need to view events from a cultural angle that does not follow our own lens. Most certainly, we all agree that child endangerment and abuse is bad – however, this might be the norm in Yemeni society. You are very much right in your connection to the hierarchy of needs and how that relates to industrialized societies. Since we already have the necessities for survival taken care of, we look to higher societal issues like ethics and morality. For Yemen, there are many who still struggle to survive, and so all their energies are focused on that goal. The issue of child brides can fall by the wayside until Yemen is more politically stable.

      However, I do disagree that helping the girls in Yemen is a ‘futile’ gesture. There are ways to both help these girls and bear in mind the political instability situation – these issues are not mutually exclusive. I believe that, given the appropriate application of resources and manpower, there is a way to provide welfare for those who need it. While imposing others’ values does often make things worse, the power must be given for Yemen to make that change from within.

      Thanks ^__^

  8. Ji Li says:

    I am so impressed by the fact this article provides us. I am not very familiar with the country Yemen as well as the injustice that the girl child is experiencing right now, but which is really a big shock to me.

    To me, people live in the country are the most crucial elements to support the country, to help the country run well, and to make the country survive. It is unreasonable to make certain group of people suffer quite a lot more than others in order to make room for the government to “better” deal with political unrest. Not to mention that those people who are experiencing such severe pains are most child girls under age of 15.

    However, just as we have discussed in class so far, I don’t live in the country, I am not experiencing what Yemen people are experiencing right now, I don’t know how such tradition came from, so I don’t understand such situation. I don’t understand why those girl children’s parents are willing to do so, say, “sell” their girls, but without thinking other possible ways to solve their poverty problems? This is just a question from an outsider who is not familiar with the country. What I need to do is probably to find more information about Yemen and try to get the background reason for such phenomenon. But I still believe that such inhuman phenomenon must be paid stronger attention by Yemen government immediately, or even if the political unrest would be moderated someday, the situation of this country would still not get better in certain ways.

    • KSA ROCKS! says:

      I agree that people are the backbone of a country; without people to govern, a government is nothing. As a result, it is in the best interests of countries like Yemen to look after its people and make sure they are taken care of. Your perspective is very interesting, as it looks more at the motivation of the mothers who sell their children into bridal slavery than most of our interpretations thus far. It is very fascinating to note that this is a financial decision brought on by the mother – the ostensible caretaker of the child, and the figure we generally agree is in charge of the child’s welfare. For that woman to do that in order to solve their problems with poverty shows a perspective that is very alien to most of us, I’m sure. It is a sobering reminder that many cultures are quite different from ours, and we should take that into consideration when making judgments on these societies.

      In the end, I think we all agree that the brunt of the assistance that can be given to these girls cannot be rendered until political stability returns to the country. In the meantime, all we can do is hope that these girls will turn out okay.

      Thanks =->

  9. lisamedina says:

    Hi Maha, thank you for posting this article. I agree with our classmates that until political instability is addressed,child-marriage will unfortunately be an issue that is put on the back-burner. I do however feel this dialogue has been very one-sided, given the fierce opposition against a ban on child brides that still runs high among some religious leaders and conservatives. While I don’t approve or agree with child-marriage in the Yemen culture, I feel we are missing another perspective in the dialogue. A February 2009 law set Yemen’s minimum age for marriage at 17, but it was repealed after some legislators called it un-Islamic and was sent back to parliament’s constitutional committee for a review. It got me thinking, what is so “un-Islamic” about it? I’m not too familiar with the details of the Islamic culture and very little media coverage delves into the other side of the story. I feel this gives unbalanced depiction of the actual situation in Yemen. Child-marriage seems to be a practice engrained in the culture, which could be why the Yemeni people are so resistant to change. What are your thoughts?

    Sorry for playing the devil’s advocate – just thought this part of the dialogue was missing!

    • Lisa I agree that a big part of the “problem” (from our point of view) here is that we and much of the world consider Yemen’s cultural norms as inappropriate. Perhaps they are using their religion as an excuse for cultural norms, as we know that not all women who practice Islam are subjected to child marriage. It is also true as mentioned earlier that cultural norms are the most difficult to change. We saw this in “Do They Hear You When You Cry.”

      I see a lot of parallels between the story of Fauziya Kassinga and this article about women in Yemen. Education is not as valued for women in these situations and it once again reminds me how lucky I am. The past few weeks of class have opened my eyes to all of the women’s rights issues there are and that I may be able to do something about them.

      visited the Equality Now website, signed up for their email list and followed them in Twitter. I also took some time to write a couple of letters to MA senators about a bill in congress that is relevant to FGM. I’m hoping that in the future I’ll be able to utilize my communications skills (even as a volunteer) to make an impact on these types of issues. Maha took a great step in letting us know about this specific issue many of us were not aware of before and that is a good start to making change.

    • Boon Han says:

      Hi Lisa,

      Regarding the repeal of the Feb 2009 law, I recall reading about Islamic traditions which benchmarks the marriageable age of girls to the age which they reach puberty. Therefore the incongruence with the law…
      However, I am no expert this area though…

      Maha, please correct me if I am wrong.

      • KSA ROCKS! says:

        Thank you Boon for your wonderful effort ^_^ you are on the right track but I have responded to Lisa in more detailing.


    • KSA ROCKS! says:

      Hi Lisa,
      I appreciate you trying to see the other side of the story, but please allow me to address some of the questions you’ve raised.
      I believe that the setting of an age requirement is “un-Islamic” because to paraphrase from the Quran (Surah 30 Verse 21), Allah has created the woman to be a man’s mate with whom the man is to live in tranquility and with whom he should share love and mercy.
      As such, I don’t think that a minimum age requirement is enough justification for forcing a girl into marriage. There should also be love and consent between the two people who are to be wed. Moreover, instead of making the minimum age requirement as the basis for the right time for marriage, it is perhaps more important to consider the girl’s level of maturity in the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects. It should be ensured that the girl is capable of handling the responsibilities of rearing children and taking care of the family. They should also have the wisdom that would be necessary for handling the problems that come with married life. These things, however, do not always come with age but are dependent on other factor such as culture, place, time, and the girl’s psychological readiness.
      In addition, it should be considered that the times have changed and that what used to work in the past may no longer work today. As well, the differences in lifestyles should be considered. For example, in rural communities, early marriages usually have the support of the extended family while people in urban areas tend to be more independent.
      As for your question about why the Yemeni people are so resistant to change, I think that this resistance may not be so much because of culture as it is because of poverty. It is in my opinion that parents allow their daughters to be married at a young age in order to alleviate their poverty. The dowry they receive would be financially helpful to them and they probably believe that they’re doing their daughters good as the daughters will be provided with all of their material needs and wants. I would then say that ignorance – their lack of education and awareness – is what causes them to resist change.
      As well, I don’t think that child marriage is necessarily a part of the Islamic culture. There are many Islamic countries in the world, but not all of them have such practices. I think that it would be inappropriate to generalize such things as each country has different cultures, norms, and laws.

      Thanks ^_^

  10. Alex says:

    My reaction to this issue, in a way, parallels one of my responses to Laura’s post last week. Then, I noted that in U.S. society, there has been a shift in the function of marriage and its level of importance or components (religious ceremony, bearing of children, etc.). I know very little about what the status or function is of marriage in other countries. My immediate reaction based on my own values is that no person should ever be sold for any purpose, and that women should have as much of a voice as men. So this child bride issue violates both of those fundamentals on my end.

    From my cultural standpoint, it is unethical to force women (who I believe should have equal rights as men – gender issue) into marriages that are either unwanted, or marriages they have no say in because they are young children (consent issue). The other effects mentioned, such as physical and emotional trauma (abuse issue) during the unwanted marriage, and complications of child bearing (health issue) at such a young age, make valuable points as to why this solution is destructive.

    There are obviously deep economic problems at stake, and if leaders in Yemen decide that this is not the right answer, the situation needs to be assessed in order to find a solution that is alternative to the child brides.

    • KSA ROCKS! says:

      I agree with all the points that you raised. This is the role of the United Nations – to ensure the protection of human rights and to ensure that people are protected in the event that their governments fail to do so. There are also a lot of human rights organizations that fight for the protection of the Yemenis’ rights, especially those of children. In addition, there are a lot of foreign countries that provide aid to the Yemenis. However, all of these external forces can only do so much. In the end, the real change will come only if the Yemeni government plays a more active role in protecting their children’s rights and if the Yemeni parents learn to recognize and acknowledge the wrongness of child marriages.
      It may be said that for the most part, the persistence of child marriages may be rooted in tradition. However, I believe that instead of being rooted in Islam, this is rooted in the so-called tradition being passed down from generation to generation, without anybody questioning it until now. As far as the Yemeni people are concerned, they probably see nothing wrong with it. As such, it is not only the protection of children’s rights that should be fought for. There should also be a move or an effort made to educate these people on how child marriages can cause their children more harm than good.

      Thanks =->

  11. Kristina Coppola says:

    I think that Lisa’s observations about the February 2009 law and Boon Han’s reminder about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are both critical points in this discussion. Because of its basis (and role in perpetuating) poverty, child marriage is a problem in developing countries beyond Yemen. For instance, in Niger 74.5% of women report having been married before the age of 18 (http://www.icrw.org/child-marriage-facts-and-figures).

    It looks like in some of these other countries, non-profit organizations are involved and trying to leverage international aid to change the ways that people think about child marriage in the context of their culture. The author of this article doesn’t talk a lot about it (”International donors invest millions of dollars on education and health reform in Yemen,” HRW’s Khalife said. “Without a ban on child marriage, none of the international aid will prevent girls from being forced to leave school and from the health risks of child marriage.”), but it certainly doesn’t seem like the author thinks this will have much effect in Yemen. I wonder, if this practice is so engrained in the culture (and current needs) of the people of Yemen, will instituting legislation solve the problem? Would such a ban/minimum age be enforced?

    I think that this is a problem that goes beyond legislation and falls to the citizens of Yemen who disagree with this practice teaming up with the international community that is already engaged in this issue in other countries around the world. I don’t know much about Yemen’s political openness…but it seems like they accept international aid for education and health…so perhaps this is already underway.

    Yemen is trying to set the minimum marriage at 18…it may be interesting for some of you to know that here in the US, the minimum marriage age varies between states, with a few states allowing marriage at 16 as long as there is parental consent (and sometimes a court hearing) or if a girl is pregnant. 18 is considered the threshold for marriage without parental consent in every state but Nebraska (19 yr) and Mississippi (21 yr).

    I will also say that according to some of the figures I read, it looks like the plight of young girls being forced into child marriages is even worse in a lot of other countries. This is not said to diminish the severity of the problems in Yemen, but to provide context for how Yemen fits into the global community on this issue.

    In closing, here is an interesting pieces I came across (http://www.icrw.org/what-we-do/adolescents/child-marriage)

    1. Support ICRW’s work to reduce child marriage and improve the lives of adolescent girls.
    2. Let others know this is a global problem that prevents girls from reaching their full potential. Bookmark and share ICRW’s Child Marriage Facts & Figures web page.
    3. Follow ICRW on Twitter.
    4. Spread the word about the harmful consequences of child marriage using Twitter. Sample tweet: If present #childmarriage trends continue, 100 million girls will marry over the next decade. http://bit.ly/cO8GN6
    5. Watch and share our web video about child marriage, The Bride Price: Consequences of Child Marriage Worldwide.
    6. Connect with ICRW on Facebook.
    7. Subscribe to our e-blast to receive updates on how ICRW is working to combat child marriage.
    8. Learn more about ICRW’s efforts to engage the United States government to prevent child marriage.
    9. Sign the GirlUp petition to ask President Barack Obama to do more to halt the practice of child marriage.
    10. Read National Geographic’s “Too Young to Wed: The Secret World of Child Brides.”

  12. meredithmckenna says:

    1. It is completely unacceptable the way that girls in Yemen are treated. I agree with Laura, in the view that the President may just be blaming his lack of action to help the women of his country on the protesters. He is letting this issue take the back seat
    2. No, it is completely inhumane to objectify a human being just so the family can improve their economic situation.
    3. The life and freedom of the girl is definitely not less important than the fight for political freedom. Just like how there are “wartime rules” there are certain things that should not be done to the citizens of a country while it is in political unrest.
    4. Our discussions, and readings in class have definitely opened up my eyes to how differently people view global issues, and how at times I am quick to dismiss something as “right” or “wrong” without thinking of the cultural values behind an action or policy.

    I’d also like to add that although I am not familiar with cultural norms in Yemen, after reading this article it is clear that young marriage/ girls getting sold into marriage is commonplace in Yemen society. This is very familiar to FGM in Togo (as well as other countries that allow the practice). It seems that this practice of young marriage is engrained at a very young age. I think one way to combat these practices is through education. Mandatory education up until a certain age throughout the country could possibly have an effect on the next generation of Yemen. Although it is true that cultures have their own traditions, and we should not be so quick to judge, but wasn’t slavery a tradition in the U.S. at one time too? Oppression needs to be addressed and should not be allowed to hide behind the words “cultural norms” and “tradition.”

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