The Trinidad Express has reported that an eight-year-old Yemeni child bride (identified only as Rawan) died on her wedding night from sexual injuries inflicted by her 40-year-old husband.
This ghastly death occurred in the town of Meedi in Hajjah province, in northwestern Yemen, when a man five times the girl’s age forced himself upon her–causing extreme sexual trauma to her fragile body.
“On the wedding night and after intercourse, she suffered from bleeding and uterine rupture which caused her death,” said Arwa Othman, head of Yemen’s House of Folklore and a leading rights campaigner. “They took her to a clinic but the medics couldn’t save her life.”
Human rights organizations worldwide are calling for the man’s arrest and demanding that more attention be brought to the already existing global issue of forced child marriages.
Throughout Yemen, over a quarter of girls become child brides while they are still playing with dolls. Once married, these children are removed from their families, lose access to education and healthcare, and are frequently subjected to emotional, physical and sexual violence by their husbands. The poverty-stricken families these young girls come from marry them off to earn money from the dowry given to her.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), between 2011 and 2020, more than 140 million girls are fated to become child brides against their will. Additionally, 140 million of them will be married off before the age of 18, and 50 million before turning 15.
One of the challenges with trying to abolish child marriages is that, around the world, there is no established definition of a “child” that has been settled on. These circumstances only create opportunities for countries to interpret laws where they see fit and grant little protection for innocent lives.
The Human Rights Council (HRC) has been at the forefront of establishing an age limit, as well as documenting the lifelong damage caused by child marriages in its 54-page report “How Come You Allow Little Girls to Get Married?”
In February 2009, Yemen set the minimum age for marriage at 17, but that law was repealed after conservative lawmakers called it “un-Islamic.”
Authorities have yet to take any action against the girl’s family or her husband.
The Dubai-based Gulf News reported that Yemeni law enforcement officials denied the marriage and death of the girl, but the journalist who initially broke the news maintains it is true–based on the accounts of the girl’s neighbors.
“They are willing to give their testimony on the issue,” says Mohammad Radman, a freelance journalist from the province. “I think the officials are trying to bury the story.”
After speaking with two Meedi residents, who say the girl is dead and buried, Reuters confirmed the incident.