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Yemen’s Child Marriages: 52% of Girls Married Before 18 and 14% Before the Age of 15

Islamophobes often times confuse tribal custom and practice as a reflection of Islam. They cannot concede the view that marriage practices vary across the Islamic world, and that most Muslim countries have age limits on marriage.

The article below highlights quite a few salient points in regards to the high number of girls in Yemen, between the ages of 15-18 being married off, 38%, and girls under 15, 14%, for a total of 52%. It doesn’t say anything about the age of those whom the young girls are marrying, it’s safe to presume that many of them are young men as well. It is also safe to assume however that a significant portion are likely men who are quite older than them (see picture above).

The article reveals that it is Yemeni Muslims, many of them deeply committed to Islam: Imams, scholars, politicians and human rights activists who are attempting to reform this practice within their own culture and society.

Of course this won’t stop the Islam haters from trying to bash Islam and further the “Mo was a pedo” myth that they are so fond of.

See our article that deals with the topic of marriage age: Translating-Jihad’s Completely Fraudulent Translations.

Also see: Man Married his 10 year old niece and justified it through Biblical passages.

Yemen’s Child Marriages

By Catherine Shakdam (OnIslam)

SANAA – Yemenis are marrying off their daughters at a very early age, a practice seen by Muslim imams as rooted in tribal traditions, rather than in Islamic teachings.

“Much of child marriages are rooted in tribal tradition and not in Islam,” Sheikh Mohamed al- Iryani, an Imam in Aden, told OnIslam.net.

He blamed poverty and fear of stigma for the common practice in the Arab Peninsula country.

“Poor families see raising daughters as a heavy burden which they are happy to unload on someone else at the first opportunity,” he said.

“It is contrary to our teachings but as long as local Imams agree to perform the ceremonies it will continue.

Child marriages are widespread in Yemen.

Estimates show that 52 percent of Yemeni girls are married off before the age of 18 and 14 percent before the age of 15.

There are some cases in which young girls as little as 8 were being allowed to enter a marital union.

Well-remembered is the case of Nujud, a young Yemeni girl who challenged her family, demanding that a judge free her from her abusive husband by dissolving her marriage.

“We as a society need to tackle this issue and launch some sort of a national dialogue,” said Iryani.

Marriage in Islam is of utmost importance as it is upon the lawful union of a man and a woman that society grows strong and that moral is preserved.

In Islam it is not permissible for the guardian to compel the one under his guardianship to marry someone she does not desire to marry.

Rather, it is necessary to seek her consent and permission.

Marriage Age

Human rights activists have called for setting a minimum age limit to marriage to help uproot the phenomenon.

“Setting a minimum age limit to marriages will help prevent child abuse and young bride trafficking,” Nadya Khalife, a women’s rights researcher for the Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch, told OnIslam.net.

“Yemen’s political crisis has left issues such as child marriage at the bottom of the political priority list.

“But now is the time to move on this issue, setting the minimum age for marriage at 18, to ensure that girls and women who played a major role in Yemen’s protest movement will also contribute to shaping Yemen’s future.”

Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, the highest religious body in the Sunni Muslim world, has recently issued a manual on the rights of Muslim children.

“Marriage in Islam is regulated by certain rules, namely, children must reach puberty and maturity so that they can get married,” the manual said.

A recent HRW report said the repercussions of child marriages reverberate throughout Yemeni society as it prevents women from completing their education, keeping Yemen in a state of prolonged ignorance.

“Education is the key to progress,” said Human Rights Minister Hooria Mashour.

“If we are to build a strong Yemen, we need our people to push on their study, child marriages prevent that.”

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  • NurAlia

    @Solid Snake.

    I agree with you all the way. I think we, at least the women of Islam should use our experience, not to be against Islam, but to use it to educate our younger sisters, and help them to be able to stand for themselves when they want to assert thier rights.

    I had not one to help me…just myself, surrounded by the unknown, my parents and family, and my husband’s parents and his family…and everyone wanted me to say yes.

    In the days when I was married, in my culture, people barter thier daughters for a foothold in another family who can benefit the one she comes from. Sometimes, they promise a good education to the girl for marriage to a family that might not be able to afford it for thier own daughter.

    I know now, there was very complex factors involved in our marriage, and actually none of them had to do with Islam. However, I didnt know I had the right to object…but even if I did know, I would not have known the impact of ‘family legacy’, or promises broken, or how far in life without opportunities my new family allowed me to access.

  • Sir David : Man on a phone with a french spell check

    Also the reason why the âge of consent is 16 in the UK was to stop rich men taking advantage of servant girls.

  • Sir David ( Illuminati membership number 16.69

    Romeo was 14 and Juliet was 12 years old
    Somethings dont change

  • Solid Snake

    @JSB

    :) Thanks JSB. I enjoy your comments on here as well. I will (try to) slow down and proofread my posts before submitting.

    @Sam Seed

    Thanks Sam

  • Solid Snake

    @NurAlia
    Thank you for sharing. Im happy that you dont regret the life you had with your husband. Allah Yarhamuh Inshallah. Your story is a great example of how culture sometimes goes against Islamic principles. Sometimes many factors are involved in child marriages.The Islamophobes possess a school-yard bully binary type of thinking were it is just one factor, Islam, that ’causes’ a very complex social issue covering a huge part of the world. Just like the general poverty and low quality of living in Middle eastern countries, it isnt just one factor that contributes to the problem. Usually a combination of internal and external factors shape society and its norms, whether it is forced external factors (invasions, propping up of puppet regimes) or internal factors (general corruption in govt,misinterpreting religion etc). The problems that Muslims, Arabs, and non Arab Middle Easterners face today are so multi-faceted that whoever attempts to understand it simply as there being one sole ’cause’ (for some Muslims and Arabs its the ‘Wests’ fault, for Islamophobes its IZLAM) will not understand the problems and will fail to provide a solution. Thats why we Muslims should always take a moderate approach to solving our problems, we should recognize our flaws and correct them(as Islam instructs us to). We also must recognize that there are many external(and internal) entities that wish to see the Muslim and Arab countries in perpetual conflict, sometimes they profit from that. But as Allah (swt) says in the Quran (not exact quote) Allah will not change the situation(circumstances,condition)of the people until they change what is within themselves. And there is a lot that is wrong with us Muslims and Arabs especially in the Mid East. I wont allow the Islamophobes to co-opt the word ‘criticism’ as a guise for hate, I will criticize my own culture and my coreligionists in order to better our conditions.

  • NurAlia

    A little more than 50 years ago, I was married to someone who my family chose for me. I am from a large family, and I am the only daughter. There wasnt much to look forward to then where I live, and my nation had just finished a war, and beginning another.

    I didnt want to be married…I didnt really know what it ment, or how to be a wife. No one taught me…but I guess those things come to us when it is time to know them.

    I have 4 wonderful children, and my husband was a wonderful man, provider, and I did get to love him very quickly after we are married. We were married 52 years until he died. I look back upon my life, and I dont regret one minute of that time…I just want to say that.

    Some of you have brought to light that Muslims are allowed to chose, or that a woman must consent. I dont know Arab, or Yemeni culture, but the culture I was rasied in, it is very hard to say no when all of your family are asking you, and expecting you to say yes. You dont want to disappoint, you dont want to shame the family, and you dont know what will happen if you do say no…so you say yes, regardless of your wants.

    I just wanted to bring that notion into the coversation, although in Islam a woman must consent to marriage, it is hard to bring up women’s rights surrounded by your family

  • Just Stopping By

    @Solid Snake: “i hope you dont think im a dunce or something lol”

    Of course not. If I thought you were a dunce, I wouldn’t bother pointing those things out. You don’t point out someone’s flaws if they can’t help them.

    You come across as intelligent, but a bit rushed or careless with your writing. I have enjoyed your comments here because they show a lot of good insight. Besides, you really don’t have much reason to worry if I think you are a dunce. But, if that worry gets you to proofread a bit more on your class assignments or on applications for a job or further schooling, it will all have been worthwhile!

  • Sam Seed

    @Solid Snake

    What you say makes a lot of sense.

  • NurAlia

    I want to say first to the one who brought this article to us. In your preface, you commented that the Islamophobes claim Muslims dont discuss thier own problems. I want to say to you that there is no need for you to even acknowledge the loons, because they, and what they say is irrelevnet to the importance of problems within the Islamic community.

    Wonderful…bringing this to our attention so we can comment amonst ourselves, and have people with experience share it with us, so we can understand…like the commenter ‘Solid Snake’.

    I want to say to Solid Snake, I can relate to what you are saying. Living as a sort of bridge between the world like Yemen, and the world we live in now, I understand both sides…although I have grown on the side of choices.

    I will tell my story the next time I comment here, as I am pressed for time. I just had to tell ‘Solid Snake” that I understand right now.

    Thank you for presenting this story…and hopefully the commenters will be filled with wisdom and compassion in the Islamic manner, and we can ignore the loons for once…to help us solve this problem.

  • Omar

    “He blamed poverty and fear of stigma for the common practice in the Arab Peninsula country.”

    Yemen is tribal poor and illiteracy rate is high in that ancient country. They marry off their young daughter in hope for a better future and as a mean to protect the “tribe honor”. They are basically afraid that their daughters might grow up and become prostitutes to support themselves. It’s retarded of course but that’s just the way it is.,,,

  • Solid Snake

    @JSB
    You got me again, didnt you? Although that might make sense with an explanation. Sometimes so many ideas flood my mind at once while typing, making me jump from one train of thought to another mid sentence. sometimes I finish typing one thought or stop and delete it to start the next thought. Sometimes in my haste to post an idea I phrase something the wrong way or misspell some words. Its some sort of minor ADD i think :) It happens all the time, especially in class.i hope you dont think im a dunce or something lol

  • Just Stopping By

    @Solid Snake: “I have a bad habit of thinking faster than I can type…” I’ll let you figure that one out on your own.

    Yes, obviously I knew what you meant. I had never heard that explanation before, so I learned something today. It’s actually a nice example of how roles should be tailored based on what both people need rather than one person being forced to tailor their (historically her) role based primarily on the other person’s abilities and needs.

    “There should be a preview or edit button on this website.” Yeah, if only there were a way to read what you typed in the comment box before hitting the submit button. Of course, I’m guilty of submitting without proofing myself. A spell-check, however, would be nice.

  • dominic decocco

    This article does not mention the age of sexual consent for many countries in the world. In Mexico alone, it varies from state to state!

    In France, 15
    Germany 14
    Austria 14
    Bulgaria 14
    Croatia 14
    Czech Republic 15
    Denmark 15
    Italy 14
    Liechtenstein 14
    Macedonia 14
    Monaco 15
    Spain 13
    Sweden 15
    UK 16
    Netherlands 16

    Here are just a few of the countries in Europe. Point is, even in the modern world age of consent is not agreed upon.

    I am with Solid Snake on this one

  • Solid Snake

    @JSB
    LMAO :) you know what I meant. Its just some people think that Islam does not allow women to work or become educated and that it relegates them to the role of housewife. What I meant to say was that he married a woman who had power and influence through her role as a businesswoman and he also married a woman who played the role of housewife. So the example that the prophet set gives a Muslim husband and wife freedom to choose what role needs to be filled in their relationship. Remember that the Prophet also helped around the house doing chores that some cultures insist should be done by a female only.

    But thanks for the catch JSB. I have a bad habit of thinking faster than I can type, resulting in embarrassing statements like that! There should be a preview or edit button on this website.

  • Ali

    Did you know in the 5 minutes it took you to read that article, 3 women in the US were raped?

  • Just Stopping By

    @Solid Snake says, “You see the Prophet married many women of all types, old, young, divorced, widowed, a businesswoman, housewives, etc” Housewives??? Now we’re talking polyandry…

    “I hope I made sense” Other than the bit about marrying housewives, I thought that was an excellent comment. Seriously. :-)

  • MasterQ

    In a YouGov study conducted in 2008, 20% of 14−17-year-olds surveyed revealed that they had their first sexual experience at 13 or under.

  • Bonkerz

    @Averroes’ Ghost

    In Islam there are 2 rules that are relevant to this article:

    *The Marriage is valid ONLY with the consent of BOTH the husband and the wife

    *BOTH the husband and the wife must have attained puberty

  • Solid Snake

    I am a Yemeni, born there and lived for 7 years before coming to the U.S. Ive visited many times but only staying for a couple of months each. From personal experience, talking face to face with Yemenis the biggest factor that causes such marriages is poverty. As my parents say when I ask them about this issue “Everyone is trying to survive”. When I was in Yemen last summer, whole streets would be blocked because dozens of vehicles would be lined up at a single gas station. Mostly worker vehicles like big trucks and water transport vehicles. It is very hard to find a job these days unless you have some sort of connections to people in high positions. The people who have big families are forced to marry off their daughters young in order to ease the economic burden placed on the family by an extra mouth to feed. That is one of the biggest factors. Another is culture, as the article states.

    In my opinion, the minimum age of marriage depends on three things 1)puberty 2)Woman’s consent 3)financial and other circumstances. If the two partners do not meet the first requirement then the marriage is null and void. And Islam clearly forbids that. If the process does not include number 2 then the marriage is null and void. the third condition depending on the circumstances. Why did people in the past marry younger? Average life expectancy was lower, financial situations, social situation etc. So I believe that if you are well off, one should marry after the age of 18.

    Thats the beauty of Islam in regards to these things. It always depends on the circumstances and allows us to decide based on a solid foundation. You see the Prophet married many women of all types, old, young, divorced, widowed, a businesswoman, housewives, etc because his message is supposed to help guide us no matter where or what era we live in. Maybe we live in a culture that frowns upon marrying divorced women…well the Prophet set an example that it is ok to marry divorced women. Do we have to? No, not at all. Just like we dont have to marry at very young ages. But there might come a time where humanity will be forced to survive by marrying young and procreating because of some sudden circumstances like poverty, disasters, and the like. Anyway that’s my 2 cents. I hope I made sense :)

  • Averroes’ Ghost

    @So What!

    This is not a West vs. East issue.

    Everyone should be troubled by cases such as the one of Nujud, she was married without her consent, seemingly before puberty and definitely before maturity.

    There is a lot of abuse in this practice of child marriage, and studies show that in societies such as Yemen it causes women to go without education and under privileges them economically.

    The tribal and societal aspects of this however have to be understood, and that is what Islamophobes don’t, and will not, understand.

    Talmudic or Sunnic justification for harmful practices are not enough to legitimize them in today’s day and age in most societies. I agree that between the age’s of 15-18 y.o. with the girls consent isn’t too problematic to me, but below 15? Yes. It can be very problematic.

  • http://aayjay.wordpress.com AJ

    I think Yemen and the Western world are the two opposite ends of a spectrum, biologically speaking. If Yemen is pushing towards early teen marriages then the West pushes towards marriages in late twenties/early to mid-thirties. Both attitudes are extreme, I think.

    On the other hand, if you compare teens that actually give birth and that too, to children, that are abandoned by mothers or fathers or by both, the West probably fares much worse than Yemen. I wonder why the Islamophobes don’t roll the drums on that.

  • mindy1

    I hope that this can be solved-I read the case of Nujud, her dad didn’t even care about her, he just treated her like property :(

  • So What!

    who cares if they have a minimum marriage age or not? we judge by Muslim standards, not western standards. and Muslim standards say that puberty makes a girl eligible for marriage, period. so do biblical standards, by the way. in fact, the Talmud says priests can marry 3 year olds, and Isaac’s wife Rebekah was a toddler at her marriage, so who really cares about what these people think?

  • crow

    Glad to see this. Although nothing you tell fat Bob and his white trash posse will ever change their “minds” hats has consumed their souls

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