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Unrest in Yemen leads to increase in child marriages

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Summary of story from IRINNews, December 22, 2011

The number of child marriages in Yemen is being driven upwards by poverty and unemployment and the current political unrest, according to a new study.

Asmaa al-Masri, a sociologist at Dhamar University, has found that several hundred girls in Dhamar have been forced into early marriages because their families need money (see WVoN story).

“The number of child marriage victims is increasing,” al-Masri said, “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 because of the ongoing political instability which interrupted parliament business, said Member of Parliament Mohammed Qowarah.

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): “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 (see WVoN coverage) 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, HRW has said, “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.”

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