Rawan: The West Uses An 8-Year-Old Bride Killed On Her Wedding Day To Gain Control In Yemen
THE story of the eight-year-old Yemeni bride who died of internal injuries on the first night of a forced marriage to her 40-year-old groom is all over the web.
The Daily Mail’s Matt Blake reports on Rawan, who lived and died in the Hardh, northern Yemen.
An eight-year-old child bride has died in Yemen of internal bleeding sustained during her wedding night after being forced to marry a man five times her age, activists have claimed.
Which activists the Mail doesn’t bother to report.
Angry Man, a blogger, posted that the man was ‘an animal who deserved to be punished severely for his crime’.
Is it a crime in his country? And what crime would it be? The facts are sketchy. Still, Blake offers some background:
Child bride: The practice of marrying young girls is widespread in Yemen…
There was a law in Yemen setting the minimum age for marriage at 17 . It was repealed after some lawmakers said it was un-Islamic.
The BBC reported earlier this month:
The human rights ministry in Yemen says that one of its officials has managed to stop the wedding of a nine-year-old girl, due to take place on Friday. An official told the BBC it was the first such intervention to stop a child marriage in Yemen. The child, Hiba, was due to have been married on 8 November in the southern city of Taiz…
Fuad al-Ghaffari, a senior official in the office of the Human Rights Minister, Hooria Mashhour, said he was proud of the action taken by his colleague, as well as the police.
The women’s rights group, Equality Now, has listed the stories of some of the young girls who have been through this experience.
Wafa, it says, was married at 11 to a 40-year-old who raped and tortured her. A lawyer hired by the group and the Yemeni Women Union managed to arrange her divorce.
Another 11-year-old, Fawziya, died in childbirth.
Salwa, a 12-year-old girl, killed herself by throwing herself off a roof.
All terrible. And all unsupported by any evidence. The BBC then adds:
A recent, widely-reported case, which was not officially corroborated, of an eight-year-old girl said to have died of internal injuries after her wedding night, prompted renewed calls for action.
Terrible, of course. The ages of those girls makes the story travel. But what is a child bride?
Millions of girls across the world end up as child brides, despite the practice being outlawed in many countries. But some girls are defying their families’ attempts to marry them off. Some 10 million girls a year are married off before the age of 18 across the world, according to a Unicef report released this year.
You can get married at 16 in the UK. And in India, for example:
While child brides in Rajasthan tend to be married off very young, it is usually to grooms of a similar age and it is not until they are older, about 15 or 16, that they actually start living together as man and wife.
Fourteen year old Bablu, left, wearing a garland made of Indian currency tries to remove the veil of his twelve-year-old bride Mata Bai, outside a temple after offering prayers in Rajgarh, about 155 kilometers (96 miles) from Bhopal, India, Friday, May 6, 2011.
The focus is on the women and girls. Nicole Bailey writes:
Girls as young as six years old are being forced into marriage in those countries, many enduring rape, physical trauma from intercourse and childbirth, and torture – several on record have died from their wounds or committed suicide. Ensuring minimum marriage laws are passed in these countries is a top priority for many supporters of human rights around the world.
The tragic stories pouring out of these countries in the present day are too numerous to count: A selfish drug addict sells his child daughter to a man four times her age. A thirteen-year-old bled out and died three days after her wedding as a result of sexual violence perpetrated by her husband. The fact that these stories can exist in 2013 is inexcusable
Although the outcome of the proposals in both Yemen and Saudi is unclear, there is hope that the critical mass of pressure both within the region and internationally will suffice to see the measures through. We must protect our children, and especially our girls, from this most vicious abuse. Our country, world, economy, education, and humanity depend on it.
Wow. So much depends on ending a foreign culture we in the West might not like.
In Southern Asia, 48%—nearly 10 million—of girls are married before the age of 18.
In Africa, 42% of girls were married before turning 18.
Should these marriage be banned? And how can they be prevented? Maybe if the media is so terrible and focuses on the abuse of minors, the UN will create laws and see that they are enforced – although how they will do this is a moot point?
“If you make a law it will not stop a tradition—especially in Yemen, where the police are basically nonexistent in some parts of the country,” said Sama’a Al-Hamdani, an independent Yemeni analyst and writer. “You don’t have the luxury to be a teenager in Yemen: you are a child, and then you are an adult.”
The EU foreign policy chief, Lady Ashton heard of the dead child bride and has urged the Sana’a authorities last week to investigate the case “without delay and to prosecute all those responsible for this crime”. One child’s alleged death is a matter of international importance. Anorak can find no words from Ashton on the Vatican’s role in the sustained abuse of children. Is it only the darker skinned, poorer people whom she seeks to bring into line?
Is the aim not only to save the children but to save Yemen, to bring it into the Western fold?
The Guardian spotted one child bride.
Ask Noora Al Shami about her wedding day and she remembers the childish delight of an 11-year-old girl playing at being an adult. She was thrilled at friends and family gathering for a three-day party in the Yemeni port city of Al Hudaydah, 140 miles west of the capital city of Sana’a.
There were traditional singers and dancers, with one musician performing love songs to the backing of a traditional oud, a pear-shaped stringed instrument. Food including spiced lamb and rice was plentiful, and the little girl wore “three really beautiful dresses” – two green and one white – for each day of the celebrations.
“I was allowed to wear adult clothes, to put on jewellery, to accept presents,” recalls Noora, who is now 35. “What had not dawned on me was that I would be abused by a violent criminal.”
The assailant was Mohammed Al Ahdam, a distant cousin who was well into his 30s when he married Noora in 1989, just after her 11th birthday. “He was three times my age and saw marriage as a means to act like a depraved animal,” said Noora, who has agreed to speak about her experiences in a bid to highlight the problem of child marriages, and ultimately to stop them. Earlier this month she visited the Sana’a parliament, and called for “awareness campaigns” across the country in front of elected officials.
Human Rights Watch says 14% of girls in Yemen are married by the time they are 15, and more than 50% before the age of 18. The motivation is money – the family get a dowry for the bride.
Physical and psychological problems last a lifetime, however, and recently there have been unconfirmed reports of an eight-year-old bride dying from her injuries on her wedding night. That has led to calls for the legal age of marriage to be raised from 15 to 18. But even if the law was changed, there is no minimum age for marriage in Islamic law, and Yemeni clerics regularly argue against legal restrictions.
“It’s not really something that the law has been able to control, especially not in tribal communities,” said Noora. “The legal marriage age has been 15 for some time, but my mother was first married at nine, and divorced by 10, before going through another two marriages. She had me in her early teens.
As for the dead child:
“The government is informing us that the Rawan is in their custody and still alive, while other local sources are saying that she was secretly buried,” said Al-Qureshi, who heads up Seyaj, one of Yemen’s leading children’s rights groups. “The government is refusing to allow us to visit the girl in their custody,” he said. “The evidence we have now cannot prove that Rawan was killed, and that is why we need the government’s cooperation.”
Such are the facts in reporting on a country where the Islamists are attacked by unmanned American drones. The Culture Wars are well underway…
Lead photo: Nujood Ali, a 10-year old Yemeni girl, and her lawyer Shada Nasser leave the stage after being honoured at the Glamour Women of the Year awards Monday, Nov. 10, 2008 in New York. Ali, a former child bride, was able to get a divorce from her abusive husband with the help of Nasser. Date: 10/11/2008