US/World

Rawan, 8-Year-Old Child Bride, Dies In Yemen: How Underage Marriage Impacts Millions Of Girls Worldwide

Activists Hope To End The Practice Of Marrying Young Girls
The death of an 8-year-old child bride Sunday in Yemen outraged many in the Middle East and around the world, as millions of young girls face forced marriage. Creative Commons

An 8-year-old child bride died on Sunday from internal injuries sustained during her wedding night in Yemen, Gulf News reported.

The girl, Rawan, bled severely after suffering vaginal tearing following her forced marriage to a 40-year-old man in the city of Hardh in the northwestern part of the country. As neighboring Kuwaiti officials expressed outrage, social activists in Yemen implored authorities to arrest the “beastly groom” and members of the girl’s family for prosecution.

Activists in Yemen and around the world hope to end the practice of marrying young girls — at least one as young as 3 years old, in one media report — to men in rural areas. Although the Yemen government instituted an age minimum of 17 for marriage in 2009, the new law has been deemed by many in rural areas as “un-Islamic.” The country’s parliament plans to review the law this month for a final decision.

On Monday and Tuesday, local bloggers in Yemen continued to express outrage, according to media reports. “All those who supported such a crime should also be punished,” a blogger wrote under the pseudonym “Sad." “It was not fair at all and the marriage should not have happened even if some tribes believe that it is a good custom.”

Still others castigated the girl’s family for practicing traditions mostly deemed backwards. “Rawan’s family members are not humans,” Bu Omar, another blogger, wrote. “They do not deserve to have children.”

Regardless of whether parliament upholds the law — or strengthens it — many observers believe social regulation begins with education, given a high illiteracy rate. According to media reports in the region, many parents simply fail to understand the medical dangers of forcing young girls into sexual relationships before puberty. Beyond mere ignorance of human physiology, however, is tribal custom in many rural areas, holding that young girls make obedient wives and would bear more children. Poor families also accede to financial pressure for “bride prices” of hundreds of dollars.

The United Nations Population Fund says that more than 140 million girls worldwide will be pushed into marriages between 2011 and 2020. Of those brides, 50 million will be girls under the age of 15.

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