Thursday, February 4, 2010

Marriage as Child Abuse in Yemen

Yemeni Bride
Marriage customs in Yemen seem to be rather unusual. Evidently, marriage is not a union between man and woman in this poorest of the world's nations. Instead, it is a business transaction between men-- a form of slavery and child abuse where perverted potential husbands with a preference for sex with very young girls buy them from their fathers, like sheep or goats and then proceed to rape, beat and torture them.

According to a study done by the University of Saana in Yemen, over half of Yemeni brides are under fifteen years old. Many are no more than eleven or twelve years old.

If I sound angry about this, it is because I am. My stomach churns at the idea of a mature man raping a child and I do not understand how this can possibly be acceptable in any civilized society. but evidently it is the norm in some places, including Yemen.

According to Voice of America's News Service, legislation setting a minimum age for marriage at seventeen has been languishing in the country's parliament for over a year, blocked by several influential sheiks who contend that the proposed legislation violates Islamic law. Huh? Islamic law protects child molesters? What kind of law is that? Certainly such exploitation cannot be the will of God.

To sexualize such a young girl is to emotionally and spiritually cripple a young human being and destroy her potential forever. In addition, when girls become pregnant at eleven or twelve, their chances of dying in childbirth or delivering a stillborn are double those of a woman in her twenties. Moreover, it is next to impossible for a girl who is still a child herself to be an effective mother.

Click here to read a heart rending account of a Yemini child bride who sought and was granted a divorce from her 30 year old husband. You'll see why I am so angry.

I have a message for Yemeni men who want to buy themselves a ten year old girl. Buy a sheep or a camel instead. Leave the little girls alone and let them grow up to be real women and good wives for real men.


Hels said...

I agree. And here is a Saudi case from this week where a little girl didn't have the strength to fight off her dad or his new 80 year old husband :(

A 12-year-old Saudi girl unexpectedly gave up her petition for divorce from an 80-year-old man (NB!) her father forced her to marry in exchange for a dowry, Saudi media reported Tuesday.

Despite support from human rights lawyers and child welfare advocates, the girl and her mother, who originally sought the divorce, withdrew the case Monday in court.

The girl told the court that her marriage to the man was done with her agreement. "I agree to the marriage. I have no objection. This is in filial respect to my father and obedience to his wish," she said.

I know there is no Saudi law preventing pre-pubescent marriage, but in the best of all worlds, I would charge the husband with rape of a pre-teenage girl and I would charge the father with aiding and profiting from paedophilia

pinkpackrat said...

I don't understand how anyone can think this is OK. At least in Yemen they have poverty as an excuse, but Saudi Arabia is rich-- this case sounds awful. I'm going to follow the link you left and have a look. Thanks for stopping by and for commenting.

LondonGirl said...

Didn't Mohammed marry a girl of 9 or 10? That's where the Islamic bit comes in, I think.

Regardless, I agree. It's sick.

LondonGirl said...

How is this for even more depressing - Yemen is 13th in the list for child brides. There are 12 countries which are WORSE.

"The ICRW states that about 50 percent of the Yemen’s marriages involve underage girls. Niger tops the list with 76%."

JamaGenie said...

This practice is beyond sick. Beyond that, words escape me.

Pamela Grundy said...

I hate to say this, but it isn't that long ago that men in the U.S. and Europe condoned similar behavior, both in marriage and in sexual practices. The Victorian obsession with deflowering very young virgins as a paid form of prostitution as well as their obsession with sexualizing very young girls is well-documented.

In my own family in Indiana, in the U.S., both of my parents saw marrying their girls off young as a responsibility, and I remember well the sentiment within my extended family that a man had to right to sex and if he couldn't get it from his wife for whatever reason he had a right to seek it from a daughter. My second sister met her husband when she was 14 and he was 25, and my parents were thrilled. They felt he would 'keep her in line.' My mother's family harbored a known pedophile, 'funny Uncle Mel', and everyone laughed about it as though it was similar to a nervous tic or something.

I don't say all this to defend these practices---far from it--only to point out that we are not as far removed from them as we might like to believe.

Men are what they are the world over. Until sexuality becomes less about power and ownership and more about affectionate bonding, we'll keep seeing this kind of thing, either openly or under cover. The only way to stop it is to aggressively value and protect our girls instead of turning away.

You are right though, it is quite sickening. It degrades the men, I think too--but the girls are the ones who shoulder the brunt of the damage. Or all of it, really.