14 September 2009

Yemen - 12-Year-Old Dies During Childbirth...

This is one of those moments where you are thinking about what you were doing at 12 years of age. It certainly was not thinking about getting someone pregnant and for my female readers I bet it was not about giving birth to your first child sometime through that last year before reaching teenager-hood.

I consider myself culturally aware and sensitive and all those other politically correct ideas, but for the life of me I cannot fathom the interest that some men have in wanting to marry pre-pubescent girls and then wanting to consummate that marriage after the girls first period. I am sure that there are arguments to be made for and against whether the Koran permits such unions.

My take as a non-Muslim who has read a little was that perhaps these unions might have been part of the cultural landscape and perhaps even permissible back in the prophet's day but even then the prophet was given special leeway from Allah in this respect. And, it was very much a case of the prophet saying do as I say and not as I do on this particular front. I am guessing that if I have misunderstood on these details someone is sure to want to set me on the straight path.

Anyways, this post is about a 12-year-old Yemeni girl who was forced into marriage as an 11-year-old and subsequently fell pregnant. She has died during childbirth and the child she was carrying has also died. Apparently, Fawziya Abdullah Youssef, endured a complicated labour and delivery that lasted some three days, according to the Yemeni Organization for Childhood Protection (Seyaj).

The problem is that the law that has been passed setting a statutory minimum age for girls to marry has not been enacted by the President, Ali Abdullah Saleh. So, even if law enforcement was inclined to stop the practice of grown men taking young girls as brides they could not legally do it.

Another issue is that even if the law is signed off on by the President then the reality is that many Yemeni families are impoverished and illiterate. When this is combined with ignorance of the harm that young girls will suffer as a consequence of being married off before reaching there teens means that tragedies such as Fawziya are all the more likely to occur.

Seyaj estimates that the marriage rate for girls under the age of 15 is approximately 50% in the rural parts of Yemen.

The marriage of children is not an uncommon thing in Yemen. I have written about this in the past here.

No comments: