Yemen child marriage: minister calls for ban after death of eight-year-old girl

Photograph: Khaled Fazaa/AFP/Getty Images

Yemen child brides, eight-year-old Nojud Ali, left, and Arwa, nine, pose for a picture as they celebrate their divorces,
granted them by a Sana'a court. International pressure to prohibit the practice has intensified.

Yemen's human rights minister has vowed to ban child marriage after the reported death of an eight-year-old girl on her wedding night.
Huriya Mashhoor said she would press parliament for the minimum age of marriage to be set at 18 after the child, identified only as Rawan, reportedly died from internal bleeding after marrying a 40-year-old man. "We are asking to fix the legal age for marriage at 18, as Yemen is a signatory to the international conventions on children's rights," she told AFP.
The precise details of the case remain unclear, with tribal leaders in the town of Meedi, in the north-western province of Hajjah, denying that any such incident had taken place. However, the Yemen government said an investigation was now under way. Rajeh Badi, an aide to the prime minister, Mohammed Salem Basindwa, said: "The government is dealing seriously with this issue. It will investigate it, and those responsible will be brought to justice."
Many poor families in Yemen marry off young daughters to save on the costs of bringing up a child and earn extra money from the dowry given to a girl, but international pressure to prohibit the practice has intensified.
The EU foreign policy chief, Lady Ashton, urged the Sana'a authorities last week to investigate the case "without delay and to prosecute all those responsible for this crime". She said the country should reinstate a law setting a minimum age for marriage.
Under international norms such as the universal declaration of human rights, every person regardless of their age must give their consent before they can be married.
Human Rights Watch previously urged Yemen's government to ban marriages of girls under 18. It said nearly 15% of Yemeni girls were married before the age of 15 and more than half before 18. HRW said many Yemeni child brides-to-be were being kept from school when they reached puberty.

The EU spends about €60m a year on aid to Yemen.