At the age when they were supposed to be playing with dolls and chasing their friends around trees – they are fleeing from abusive husbands and already trying to deal with marital rape.
Nada al-Ahdal, an 11-year-old girl from Yemen, says she had no choice but to run away from home, to escape getting married to a much older man. Her eloquent speech and compelling appeal against child marriage has been posted on YouTube, and gone viral.
Sources said that in her three-minute monologue on child marriage, she says she would be “better off dead” than married at the age of 11 as she would have no life, no education. “Dont they have any compassion?” she asks.
In Yemeni law, there is no legal minimum age for marriage and as a result, 52 per cent of girls get married before the age of 18. Nada points out in her video, “There are many cases like that. Some children decided to throw themselves into the sea. They are dead, now.”
More than a quarter of the females in Yemen marry before age 15, says a report by the Social Affairs Ministry. Sana University researchers have found that the average age of marriage in the rural areas of Yemen is 12-13 years. In 1992 a Yemeni law stated the minimum age of marriage to be 15. But cultural traditions and socio-economic coordinates often prevent this law from being a reality.
All of this happens without considering for even a moment what would happen to the fragile human being who is now handed over to be married – at an age where her mind and body are both under-developed and the idea of a ‘bride’ is something that exists bleakly in the imagination.
It is our job to protect our children and our society from practices which are exploiting the rights of the innocent.