The Need Of Reforms

In 2013, an eight-year-old Yemeni child died at the hands of her new husband. The girl was identified as Rawan, who had just married a man five times older than her. Despite her age, the husband forced this little girl into having intercourse with him on their night of nuptials. That same night, Rawan suffered from severe internal bleeding that caused her death. Rowan was the youngest child bride in Yemen or possibly in the world to die from the consequences of arranged marriage.

Officials tried to cover up this horrific story after her family brought her to the hospital. Imagining how many “secret” horrific stories there might be makes this topic even more sad. There are many other young girls who are forced into marriage with men who are older than them.

These so-called husbands could be their grandfathers. Young girls in Yemen, are forcibly wed to men who rape and torture them instead of loving them. They even punish them if they do not obey their orders.

Actions like that cannot be justified because only monsters would use those poor children as a source of their pleasure and sexual dreams. Deeply held cultural practices and traditions violate rights of the young girls. So why does something like that still exist in our society? How exactly do arranged marriages between mature men and young women violate the child rights of the young girls? What can we as people do to change this horrific practice of arranged marriages?

Yemen was not always like that towards children and women, but people in power always like to bring new ideas and practices into their society.

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After Yemen was united into the Yemen Republic in 1990, the minimum age marriage laws were changed many times. Originally, the constitution of Yemen, “includ[ed] a provision providing women with “equal[ity] before the law” and ensuring that there would be no discrimination based on sex; however, amendments passed in 1994 changed these rights”. Basically, the new amendment that was passed stated that women are not equal to men and are just secondary individuals who are fulfilled with rights, duties and roles to serve their brothers as guaranteed by Shari ‘a law. Shari ‘a law is very important to the Islamic world. It is a religious law that is derived from the Qur’an, which gives life a meaning and creates a better way of life that leads the path of a person.

It is interesting that Arabic countries interpret this law differently and possibly wrongly. A majority vote was to change a minimum age of marriage to seventeen from fifteen or younger, but the legislation never took effect. Additionally, “the politicians who prevented the law from passing claimed that the minimum age requirement for marriage would be “contrary to Shari ‘a”” . Yemen is the only country that still uses this argument today, while other countries passed a law that demonstrates the minimum age of marriage to be eighteen or older. The excuse of why some politicians of Yemen believe that there should not be an age limit is because “the prophet Mohammed had a nine-year-old wife”, but there is no actual evidence for that belief which might mean that Shari ‘a may not support child marriages.

According to the Convention of the Rights of the Child by UN General Assembly, arranged marriages violates every right that a child can have. Not only it does harm them mentally and physically but kills them as well. So-called honorable traditions bring more and more young girls to quit their childhoods and learn “adult” life right away to make their families and future husbands happy. If they do not obey, they could be tortured. Honour violence is a belief that the person who has brought dishonor to their families should be killed. “Honour is a state that can be lost, and this state implies shame, and honour is often associated with men and shame with women”, in Yemen young girls tend to be treated like nothing and they are discriminated. Women were always seen as secondary individuals and equalized to shame.

In the Middle East, men are seen as “dominant and sexually active”  humans who have power over women. Women are just “submissive and weak, sexually passive and working in the domestic sphere” , the female’s role in society is just to reproduce, while men have to control and protect their body and their sexuality. It would be more acceptable to have an arranged marriage if the girls were mature enough and also, if men married them not for their sexuality and bodies, but because they truly loved them. Society puts this idea into those young girls that if they do not follow the traditions of their country, they will be bring shame to their families and will bring bad reputations for themselves. This makes them vulnerable and naïve because children do not want bad for their families. They put themselves through so much pain and horror just to make society happy.

The practice of child marriage creates a huge global problem to everyone not just women in the Middle Eastern countries. Instead of protecting children all laws in Yemen are against them. It is hard for them to live in their societies, when they are discriminated literally for everything, “girls in honour cultures are denied leisure time, or to play with boys, as they are kept inside and are subjected to strong moral rules” (Ouis 450). Young girls cannot even do normal children activities like; biking or playing different games. Honour society believes that during those activities girls are most likely to lose their virginities. Girls’ dignities are more important to men and society than girls themselves. It is sad how their role is established for them even without asking them what they want from their own life. When girls do not experience their childhood, they are at home doing heavy domestic work and learning how to be “good girls”. Even domestic work affects these children.

The idea of domestic work and trying to be a “good girl” takes away their right for education, health, and the ability to explore a lot of other positive opportunities for them. It seems like there is no other choice but that is not true. That it is why society and especially parents have to be educated more about how important a person’s life actually is. Why are the youngest girls preferred for arranged marriages? There are many reasons to that with many consequences to the young girls’ lives. First of all, it is so much easier to force or make a young child to do something, especially if it is for someone they love. They are more vulnerable and naïve because they want the best for their parents and family. They want to make them happy and show them that they are worthy enough to be a part of the family. Additionally, “the older the girls are, the more difficult it is to “force” them into marriage” , which is why children are being used as a source to arranged marriage.

Second of all, many Middle Eastern countries believe that the younger the brides are, the better. They believe that “a woman gains her value, by producing many children, and hence a young wife is preferred for this task” , because their body parts are so much younger and the ability to give birth to more healthier babies is higher compared to older girls who are twenty-years-old or older. In reality, the science shows that young girls who did not hit puberty are more likely to die from giving birth to the baby. Finally, these girls are treated badly in their new families. Not only are their new husbands mean to them, but also “beat them and abuse them, deprive them of food, and force them into sex” . This crosses any line of human rights, because they are depriving someone of food only because they would not obey their orders. Again, this idea and practice violates child rights to the fullest, but what happens when young girls get sexually assaulted? The answer is forced marriage.

Even in this situation they do not have freedom. Instead of putting away a monster who did something like that to a poor child, the “… [child is] exposed to the risk of being killed by the family or forced to marry the rapist in the name of honour”. Honour is about doing something right, being seen as a good human being, but by doing something like that Yemeni society hurts and dishonours themselves more. Parents should fight for their kids and not go against them. They should protect them no matter what and provide them a safer life. Once again child marriages take away every opportunity that a child can only have. And one of the them, the most important one is the opportunity for education, the ability to explore new things. Young girls are required to stay home and learn how to be good wives for their husbands, “child brides are expected to take on domestic responsibilities”, that do not help them with their lives at all.

When a child does not explore the world and does not attend the school, the knowledge dies inside them. Studies have shown that education is very important in every human’s life. But yet, education is not as important in the Middle Eastern countries as in other countries, since young girls do not get an opportunity to go to classes. Right after their marriages, their husbands want them all for themselves and do not let them even think about school. Of course, there are still girls who attend school in Yemeni, but the percentage is low. For example, “only forty-five percent of Yemeni girls attend primary school and fifteen percent of girls attend secondary school” (Voinarevich 214) so we can see how the percentage drops as soon as girls become teenagers. Yes, there are some girls who do not want to go to school because they think that they are living in the dream where marriage life is perfect and that the brooms are their prince. But that is the parents’ fault because they do not educate their children, or do not let them go to school and mostly let them stay at home if girls actually do decide that they do not need education. Education should be a priority to everyone because that is what makes us individuals.

In order for this idea to change, the change has to start inside the country. Parents have to work with the government, and government has to work with parents. Changes are already happening, but not fast enough, because there are still many girls struggling every year. Parents have to understand that they are the reason for what is happening to their children. They need to open their eyes and see what is really happening around them. They need to see the suffering of their poor girls. No matter how hard their lives are they need to stop seeing marriage as a protection and as a guarantee for dowry or social status. Dowry is “an economic incentive for poor families to pony up a daughter or two…. the younger the girl, the higher the dowry…”.

Basically, parents sell their daughters. Parents might play a huge role in changing the laws, but they cannot do it without the government. It is important that the government acknowledges the problem of their own society and come up with some strategy that would protect young girls against arranged marriages. They should work on the law that would set the minimum age to be eighteen years old or older, as well as “the legislation against sexual abuse and violence against women and children needs to be strengthened in the region” . Additionally, government should come up with a legislation which states that husbands can be eighteen-years-old to at least thirty-years-old because it is not acceptable when a husband is five times older than a bride. It is also important that families of the husbands teach their sons how to respect their new brides and of course, they should respect those girls themselves. If respect and love are the main components in society, everyone would be united and happy.

Everything is possible in this society, if society wants changes. But again, it is not easy, it is a process that requires a lot of power and strength. The most important voice in this fight is the voice of the girls who were the victims of this practice “for future work against early marriages in the region” (Ouis 464). It stops when they decide they are tired of being victims of men’s hands and fight for their future and dreams. A really good example of how to stand up for yourself is Nujood Ali, the first child bride ever who divorced her husband in Yemeni. Her incredible story amazed not only people in her country, but also people around the world. She was nine-years-old when she married her husband who was three times older than her, he would abuse and rape her like every other man.

Maybe this little girl was helpless, but she was not hopeless. She decided to fight for her freedom, her only wish was to be a child again. After a long battle with her family and the government, she was finally granted her wish. Nujood Ali has inspired and still inspires girls today and always will. It is not easy to go against such a big authority, but she did it and she won. Ali says, “I’m a simple village girl who has always obeyed the orders of my father and brothers. Since forever, I have learned to say yes to everything. Today I have decided to say no.” That “no” helped her to survive. Her mission is not over, since then she has been encouraging and helping girls in the Middle Eastern countries to fight for themselves.

It is important not to lose faith and hope. Society has to make everyone happy and not sad or helpless, laws have to protect everyone and not to destroy, and religion has to create faith and not hate. Strong have to protect weak, and rich have to help poor. These girls had suffered enough, and it is time for them to feel justice. No child should suffer from arranged marriages that has a big impact on their childhoods and overall development. It is time for them to feel happy, loved, and worthy. It is time for them to explore the world and gain the knowledge that will bring out the identity that will help them find themselves in this world. The significance of this problem is huge and only people who are willing to work together to change it, can change that for better.

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The Need Of Reforms. (2021, Dec 16). Retrieved from

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