Research Paper on Child Marriages in Yemen, How It Affects Young Brides and How This Can Be Stopped
Number of words: 2874
Child help defines child abuse as an act of omission or commission that poses danger or causes physical and emotional harm on the development of a child. It is a broad concept that encompasses any damage to a child whether physical or emotional, accidental or non accidental. This form of abuse takes many forms from physical, neglect, emotional or sexual. Child abuse may come in different acts but at the end of it all it affects a child. According to the UN (2000) a child is an individual who is below the age of eighteen years and thus child marriage is marriage under eighteen years. This means that an adult who is above this age and marries a child who is below the eighteen years bracket abuses that child. Child marriage is rampant in developing countries: Africa, Middle East and Latin America. This paper focuses on child marriages in the Middle East and specifically in Yemen.
Child marriage has sparked controversy and discussion in both the international and national communities and is seen as a problem that is affecting many young children. This is recognized by both the international community and the human rights activities which have led to developments in the fight against early child marriages. However it has to be noted that child marriage in most occasions refers to marriage where the child party is the girl or the bride. Boy children are safe and are not exposed to such circumstances because of the responsibilities of a family.
According to Shakdam (2009) fifty two percent of girls in Yemen are married between the ages of fourteen to fifteen years. A report in 2009 by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour showed that twenty five percent of the females in Yemen got married at the age of fifteen years. Another report of December eight 2011 by the Human Rights Watch showed that this is rampant in Yemen and the girls are not protected and there is need for a way out to solve this problem. Yemen is a country which does not have a minimum age of marriage and efforts to pass an anti-child marriage bill were blocked by the Yemen parliament on the basis of shariah law.
Lazarena (2012) states that marriage is happening in many Arab countries and is happening in Yemen at a higher rate compared to all countries of the world. According to the Women’s National Committee most girls are married off at the age of twelve years. Yemen is characterized by traditional leadership and the recent president had ruled the country for thirty tree years until the recent uprising revolts that have been happening in the Middle East ousted him out of power. A study by the Gender Development and Studies Centre in Sana’a in 2008 revealed that more than half of the girls in Yemen are married off before they reach eighteen years old.
Most developing countries in the world have very high rates of early child marriages that occur when the bride is below eighteen years. In many occasions the marriages are forced and the bride is between twelve to eighteen years of age. The husbands in this marriage are normally older and may even be several decades older that the girl or perhaps the near the age of the child’s father.
Girl child marriages in Yemen and most Middle East countries is because women and girls are treated as people who have no voice and rights and are thus not supposed to object the decisions of men. This is the characteristic of a typical patriarchal society that still clings on the old barbaric ways of life. The traditional society demands double standards on women while giving mean a lot of liberty and free will to engage in the activities they want to. For example two children growing up a child and a girl will grow up knowing different aspects of life. For example the girl is treated to a life of seclusion which is called protection from the world, where as the boy child will be given a lot of freedom to explore the world and engage in anything meaningful. This treatment has made women vulnerable at one point in life and they are thus brought on this seclusion life which tends to make them adhere to some of these vulnerabilities that the men impose on them.
Child marriage occurs because of several reasons: social norms and customs, inadequate laws, gender discrimination and poverty. The society is full of norms and customs some of which have no embedded meanings to the situation they serve. Most families marry of young girls when they are still virgins and not exposed to the world of sex. This is said to bring honor to the girl’s family and the family gains through that honor the virginity of their daughter. Also this is a way of bonding between two families that are close to each other. Many families will want to keep bonds and ties by marrying off their children to the people they are close to. When bride price and dowry gifts are exchanged between families these unifies the families of the parties.
Poverty is another reason why most families marry off their girl children. In many occasions the people who marry these girls are rich and affluent and thus they pay hefty bride prices. Education to most poor parents is too expensive especially when it applies to a girl child. In such societies girls are of less value than boys and thus are seen as burdens. This means that the parents only hold on them to reach a minimum age and then they can marry them off at a price.
Lack of a law to protect girl brides from early marriages: in Yemen there is no law that protects or stipulates the minimum age for marriage. The minimum age that existed as a law was scrapped off in 2009 by the governments. The left wings politicians and human rights activists like Tawakkul Karman tried to protest against scrapping off the law but they were not successful.
Gender discrimination: this is a result of traditional laws of the society that aim to lower the value of women and to demean women and ensure that they do not achieve any status in the society. Al-Eryani
Lundstrom (2010) argue that gender discrimination is manifested in marital rape, domestic violence, access to information, and impediments to mobility. Gender discrimination is a characteristic of a patriarchal society that holds on traditional values and norms. Women are seen as having no value and only regarded to the reproductive role.
Effects of child marriage are physical, emotional, socially and extended to the entire society. M a l h o t r a et al (2011) child marriages lead to early child bearing that is characterized by a high morbidity and maternal mortality rate, Save the Children conducted a research and found out that women with limited education and power in their marriages had little chance of spacing and controlling the number of children they bear. This means that a lot of resources may be used to try and secure the lives of the infants from child mothers. A WHO research shows children from young mothers below the age of eighteen have a high mortality rate as compared to the children from mothers who are above nineteen years of age.
Child marriage socially affects the growth of a child by denying her the experience of life stages. The girl is married off at an early age and thus her development is affected since she is denied the chance to explore her teenage hood (Roudi-Fahimi, 2009).According to development psychologist every stage of development is important and the child needs to completely explore every stage of her life. Child marriage exposes a child to bigger responsibilities that she may not be prepared for and socially isolates her from life. This is a psychological burden to a child since at that age she was still dependent o her mother and now the dependency has been cut and on top of it another dependant in her life as well as larger responsibilities (M a l h o t r a et al, 2011). This is slavery but the only difference is that the torture is less physical that emotional and psychological.
Child marriages also have negative effects on education and future prospects of a child. Early marriage is denial to education and thus shuttering the dreams of a child who may want to pursue education and reach a certain level in life. Lack of education limits the systems that an individual has that can add value and meaning to their lives. This means that the child risks a life of poverty since she cannot overcome poverty from her constrained life which lacks connections, skills and mobility.
Great risk of contracting sexually transmitted disease: child marriage normally occurs to an individual who is older. In many occasions the man has sexual experience and may have contracted sexual diseases like HIV/AIDS that infect the young bride. The man may also be having other older sexual partners who may also have sexual experience and thus risking the life of the child.
Child pregnancy also develops into other complications during child birth: in many occasions child mothers experience maternal deaths and infant deaths, obstetric fistula, childhood deformities and also domestic violence. Birth related complications are common in underage mothers and a report by the Word Population Foundation shows that girls aged 15-19 are more likely to die twice during child birth as compared to those in their twenties (Al-Eryani
Lundstrom, 2010). The young brides are bodies are not completely developed and thus sustaining a pregnancy and birth affects the child greatly making her develop other child related conditions. This is described as marriage with risks and sometimes even the child brides who get married do not understand the biological developments in their body. This means that they enter into marriages without knowing the developments of the body and how to go about them. This is because these girls are pulled out of school before they reach the school grade where they are taught about the biological developments in the body. The Japan International Cooperation Agency indicates that women in Yemen are in a life time risk of maternal death which is more than the average for the region by four times. The infant mortality rate is sixty deaths for every one thousand births.
The international community and human rights organizations together with the civil society have advanced efforts that aim at fighting child marriages. Several strategies can be used to help fight and reduce child marriages in Yemen. The strategies range from legislation to awareness creation and attitude change mechanisms that aim to transform the society. Legislation: this aims at developing laws that protect children especially the girl child against the ills and deeds of a traditional society that is not embracing modernity and the rights of children this legislation may include among other the minimum age for girls to be married and legal implications that those who go against this law may face (Lazarena, 2012). It may also include parents being forced to educate girl Childs to a minimum age or else face legal assumptions on when they violate. Yemen has set one of the lowest minimum ages of marriage for girls at fifteen years which means that according to international standards these “women” are still children
Grass root initiatives to tackle child marriages: this aims at giving the girls a voice and a reason to resist the child marriages. According to Naana Otoo-Oyortey this can be achieved by setting up information centers and schemes that target existing mothers and school clubs that target girls who are in school. This helps them to know how to defend themselves and the safe channels that they can follow which exist to help girl Childs who are at the risk of being married off at an early age. Organizations exist within Yemen like Marriage without Risks Network and Middle East Partnership Initiative among others that are doing campaigns like that aim at addressing child marriages (UNICEF, 2001). They focus on media campaigns and workshops, conducting studies on child marriages and others fight for change through the relevant law channels like involving religious institutions and the parliament. All these mechanisms focus on involving the stakeholders and the parties involved to understand the magnitude of child marriages. Networks are also building with international organizations so that members can share and borrow new approaches that are developed by other organizations.
Awareness creation of the whole community on issue of child marriage: this aims at making the community especially parents aware of the risks that these girls get exposed to when married off at a young age. This aims at reaching out to the community through information dissemination that focuses on attitude change and a shift in the community thinking. The communities can be changed especially by targeting those who live near cities and are somehow exposed to the wind of change (Lazarena, 2012). These people will then start embracing this new lifestyle which will trickle down to other areas within the community. This can also be achieved through the mass media by developing programmes and media blogs that target parents to make them change their towards child marriages.
Affirmative action: legislation alone may not be important since there may be limited implementation of the same law that is passed. In many countries a new law is passed as a bill and this means it can be rejected at the bill level or even scrapped of from the law through an act of parliament or the any concerned with such (Haider, 2008). However affirmative action will help in focusing on the needs of the girl child and women so that they can be prioritized and then proper channels and mechanisms that can be used to achieve the same put in place so that the girl child’s future can be secured.
Prioritizing in the national agenda issues affecting children: Yemen has been in political turmoil for a long time and restoring the government has been the major agenda of the leaders in the country. This has left no priority for issues that affect and make women and children vulnerable in the country. There have been no interventions that focus on protecting women as lesser members of the society (Shakdam, 2012). The early marriages that are taking place are not what the Muslim law supports but the traditions that have existed in the country since. This means that if the government prioritizes the agenda of women and child rights there could be some change.
Keeping children in school: Roudi-Fahimi (2009) argues that education is the only tool that can be used to keep girls in school. When people go to school their minds become goal oriented and will want to achieve their goals before they settle down with a family. Education also opens people’s minds by exposing them to knowledge about things that they do not know. Taking girls to school will not only help them in their future but will also give them an opportunity to explore issues that affect fellow young girls in different spheres of the globe (UNICEF, 2001). This will help them to be able to explore strategies that can work within their countries and internationally to curb this problem. Education is the greatest weapon that an individual can have since knowledge is the most strategic weapon that an individual can have. This means that encouraging parents to keep their children in school will help to reduce the marriages. This can be boosted through legislating by increasing the minimum level of compulsory education.
The 2011 revolution led to the change in the government that has ignored the needs of the minority people in the country. The women of Yemen hoped that the new government that comes in will help by passing laws that will protect women and girls (Haider, 2008). They hoped that the government will enact and pass laws that will stop child marriages by passing a minimum age of marriage. When the law is passed to quote the minimum age of marriage and compulsory level of education for schooling girls will be protected from the ills of men that are self centered, chauvinistic and egoistic in nature. Women and young girls will be free from a Yemen society that deprives them of their basic human rights jeopardizes their life ambitions and makes them second class citizens in their own country.
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A n j u M a l h o t r a, et al (2011), Solutions to end child marriage, what the evidence shows, International Center for Research on Women.
Catherine Shakdam (2012), Yemen’s Child Marriages.
Ghulan Haider (2008),Child Marriage
Inna Lazareva (2012), Girl brides in Yemen: the fight for the right to say no, The Guardian 18th June.
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