Yemen Child Marriage (2009): Is the practice of child marriage on the way out in Yemen, or will conservative religious pressure ensure it stays legal?
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At ten years old, Arwa has already been married and divorced. In Yemen, where a quarter of women marry before they’re fifteen, her case has sparked a nationwide debate about child marriage.
“He would ask me to bring him something and if it wasn’t there, he would beat me,” Arwa recalls. Her husband offered a generous dowry but before long, he became violent and abusive. Encouraged by her father, she ran away. “We cannot find a good balance between the husband and the girl. It is not marriage, it is only rape!” says her lawyer, who successfully campaigned for a new law to make seventeen the legal minimum age of marriage. Before Arwa’s divorce, there was no protection for child brides, with the country’s influential religious conservatives opposed to change. “Islam determines the age of marriage to be when the girl is ready for intercourse, not a specific age.” Until the President ratifies the new law, it could still be reversed, leaving many Yemenite girls to suffer the same fate as Arwa.
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