A new campaign has brought to light the terrifyingly common practice of forced marriage, particularly for young girls in Yemen. This time, the case for ending forced marriage has come from an unlikely advocate – a father of two child brides.
The man, identified in the campaign video only as Nadim, says that marrying off his 12-year-old daughter in exchange for a dowry to pay his debts was wrong.
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In the confronting footage by Human Rights Watch, he explains that he coerced his youngest daughter into marrying a much older man using threats of violence. “I warned her,” he laments. “[I said], ‘If you don’t get married, I’ll kill you.’” He tells other families not to make the same mistake. “I'd advise any father, mother or brother not to rush to marry their girls like I did because that is ignorant."
In Yemen child brides as young as eight are not uncommon, with more than 50 per cent of girls married by the time they reach 18. Most families marry their daughters off early due to poverty.
“Unfortunately, the older the husband is and the younger the girl is, the larger the size of the dowry," says Human Rights Watch researcher Belkis Wille. “They’re expected to fulfill their duties as [a] wife, including bearing a child for their husband.”
The results can be fatal. Reports emerged earlier this week of an eight-year-old Yemeni bride who died from internal injuries she sustained on her wedding night due to intercourse with the 40-year-old groom.
There’s also the problem of child pregnancies. "When a woman marries early...before her uterus and hips are fully developed, there will be serious gynaecological health problems like multiple miscarriages and life-threatening infections,” gynaecologist Dr Arwa Rabi'i told Human Rights Watch. “We see it every day, not every month or week...10 or 20 sick girls."
The video is part of a campaign to change Yemen’s constitution to make 18 the minimum legal age for girls to marry.