22 February 2010

Protection For Girls Rejected As "Un-Islamic"

IRIN Middle East: YEMEN: “I’d rather die than go back to him”

It was every little girl’s dream - she was to get a new dress, jewellery, sweets and a party for all her friends.

What 10-year-old Aisha* did not know was that after the wedding party she would have to leave school, move to a village far from her parents’ home, cook and clean all day, and have sex with her older husband. “He took out a special sheet and laid me down on it,” Aisha told IRIN, wringing her small plump hands.

“After it, I started bleeding. It was so painful that I was crying and shouting, and since then I have seen him as death.”

After a week of fighting off her husband every night, Aisha’s father was called. He had received 200,000 Yemeni Rial (US$1,000) for his daughter in `shart’, a Yemeni dowry, which he could not pay back.

“My Dad made a cup of tea and put some pills in it, which he gave me. The pills made me feel dizzy,” said Aisha. “My Dad told me to sleep with my husband, or he would kill me, but I refused.”

Instead Aisha broke a glass bottle over her head in a desperate attempt to stay awake. “My Dad hit me badly. I was bleeding from my mouth and nose,” she said. After spending a few months in her husband’s home, where she said he would regularly drug her and beat her, Aisha managed to escape.

Now, two years later, aged 12, she is unable to divorce him.

A bill passed in parliament in February 2009 setting the minimum age for marriage at 17 was rejected by the Islamic Sharia Codification Committee which said it was un-Islamic, according to local women’s rights organizations.

So, for now, there is no law protecting children against early marriages in Yemen.

IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

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