Child Marriage Is Still Legal In Yemen

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Child marriage is a union or similar, formal or informal, entered into by a child or youth under a certain age, typically age eighteen. This action violates the rights of children and has widespread and long term consequences for child brides and grooms.

Child marriage is most common in Al-Jawf and Al-Baidha Governorates.
This rise in child marriages in Yemen is a visible indicator of the conflict’s disproportionate impact on children. Child marriage has been used both as a coping mechanism to protect girls and sustain families, and has left child brides with nowhere to turn due to a break down in welfare services and schools.

32% of girls in Yemen are married before their 18th birthday and 9% are married before the age of 15.

Under the amended Personal Status Law 1999 there is no minimum legal age of marriage. The Yemeni government’s Sharia Legislative Committee has blocked attempts to raise marriage age to either 15 or 18, on grounds that any law setting minimum age for girls is un-Islamic.

Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that girls are somehow inferior to boys. In Yemen, child marriage is also driven by:

Armed conflict: Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East. Girls are increasingly being married off as a source of income as ongoing conflict drives them deeper into poverty and desperation. Child marriage is considered to reduce the cost of caring for girls and offer them better protection through husbands.

Level of education: Many parents force girls to leave school when they reach puberty to help with household chores and prepare them for marriage. The median age of marriage is lower among women with no formal education and living in rural areas.

Family honour: Some parents marry off their daughters to preserve family honour and to protect them from engaging in shameful behaviour.

Force: The UN Child Rights Committee has expressed concern that girls in conflict-affected communities are being forcibly married to members of the Ansar-al-Sharia armed group, as well as through “tourism” marriages for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

Gender norms: Girls in Yemen live in a patriarchal, male-dominated society, and have little power to negotiate their own choices. Article 40 of the Personal Status Law requires a wife’s obedience to her husband and his consent to leave the home.

Yemen has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Yemen co-sponsored the 2013 Human Rights Council resolution on child, early and forced marriage.Yemen ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1984, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

Yemen is a focus country of the UNICEF-UNFPA Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, a multi-donor, multi-stakeholder programme working across 12 countries over four years.

During its 2014 Universal Periodic Review, Yemen supported recommendations to promote girls’ education as a means of eradicating child marriage. Further recommendations included to ensure children can establish full, free and informed consent and have sufficient mental capacity to fully comprehend the consequences and obligations of marriage.

At the Girl Summit in July 2014, the government signed a charter committing to end child marriage by 2020.

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