April 13, 2010 -- An 11-year-old Yemeni girl who was was married to a man in country's Hajja province was hospitalized today with genital injuries, said a human rights group in Sanaa.
It was the second incident involving a child bride in the last week. A 13-year-old girl died after being sexually assaulted by her adult husband. Both girls were married in the country's rural Hajja province.
The 11-year-old girl was married last year only under the condition that the adult husband would wait until she reached puberty to consummate the marriage. He did not wait, nor do many of the men who marry young brides, says Amal Basha, director of the Arabic Sisters Forum.
An estimated 50 percent of women in Yemen are married before age 18, some as young as 8.
Less than a week ago the Sana'a-based human rights group reported the death of a 13-year-old bride in the same rural area. The Associated Press reported the girl was allegedly raped, and that her 23-year-old husband is now in police custody.
"She looked like she was butchered," said the girl's mother, Nijma Ahmed. The AP also cited police a report saying the husband forced himself on his young bride, feeling under pressure to prove his manhood.
An average of eight women die each day in Yemen due to child marriage, many of them in childbirth, according to the Arabic Sisters Forum. The group runs a hotline for victims of domestic violence and has been lobbying in support of a minimum marriage age now under consideration by the Yemeni parliament.
Pushing against the proposed law is the strong hand of Islamic conservatives in Yemen. Clerics have declared women like Amal Basha apostates from Islam for opposing child marriage, which they see as divinely ordained. The government, she says, is intimidated by the religious and tribal customs.
"They say this is Islamic…and they declared jihad against... the UN treaty on women's rights," she said.
"They say my campaign is a Western agenda, that it will lead to sex out of wedlock and prostitution," Basha said.
International Pressure to Protect Child Brides
International groups like UNICEF and Oxfam have also lobbied for the rights of child brides, but tread carefully around what has become a explosive political issue.
"It's a deeply embedded social habit," said Naseem Rehman, a UNICEF spokesman told ABC News last year from in Sana'a. "For every one child marriage we can stop there are five more."