It seems incredible that this sort of thing still happens in our world. In Yemen an 8-year-old child bride died of multiple injuries after marrying a 40-year-old man. Now a Yemeni human rights minister, Hooria Mashhour, is calling for child marriage to be outlawed in the country. What happened to the girl, named Rawan, was especially horrible. But she's not the only young girl to be married off so young. "Many child marriages take place every year in Yemen. It's time to end this practice," Mashhour says. But there's a reason why child marriages are still happening in Yemen and elsewhere.
Back in 2009 a bill to raise the minimum age for marriage to 17 (and then 18) was defeated by ultra-conservatives who thought it violated their religious rights. If you can believe it, there's not even a clear definition of what makes a child in Yemen. We're used to the idea of childhood ending pretty much at the end of our teens, but that's not a universally-accepted notion.
Why would any parent marry off their child in the first place? I think that's what a lot of us wonder. How could you do that to your child? But some families face poverty that's so crippling, they feel their only option is to marry off their daughters, never mind her age. As for why a 40-year-old man would want an 8-year-old bride, well ... I think we all know there's no shortage of perversity in the world abroad and in our own backyards. Plus, a child bride is so much easier to control than some grown woman with a mind of her own, right? Sigh.
Even if a new minimum age for marriage is set, it's going to be hard to enforce. These child marriages often happen in far-flung rural areas where laws are not necessarily enforced. And anyway, even now there are people denying that Rawan died and trying to cover up the tragedy. (And keep in mind, Yemen is far from the only country where child marriages still happen.) Still, it's better than having no laws about child marriages at all. Hopefully all the international attention drawn to Rawan's horrific story will help. I hate to think it takes a human sacrifice to make this necessary change happen, but at least Rawan's death would not be in vain.
Why do you think child marriages still happen around the world?
Image via Elizabeth Haslam/Flickr