• "Whenever I saw him, I hid. I hated to see him," Tahani (in pink) recalls of the early days of her marriage to Majed, when she was 6 and he was 25. The young wife posed for this portrait with former classmate Ghada, also a child bride, outside their mountain home in Hajjah. Nearly half of all women in Yemen were married as children. Every year, throughout the world, millions of young girls are forced into marriage. Child marriage is outlawed in many countries and international agreements forbid the practice yet this tradition still spans continents, language, religion and caste. (Stephanie Sinclair)

    Childhood Interrupted

    Liberating Yemen’s Child Brides

    The country is one of the last in the Middle East to establish a minimum age for marriage, but pressure from inside the government could soon protect young girls from forced unions.

    The Human Rights Ministry of Yemen has confirmed that one of its officials has helped to prevent the wedding of a 12-year-old girl, which was due to take place earlier this month. Hiba was to be married in Taiz, Southern Yemen, but the official notified local police who ensured an immediate divorce. There have been reports too of similar interventions taking place in other parts of the country.

    With no minimum age of marriage in Yemen, while Hiba and others are out of danger for the moment, without any legal sanctions to support them, these girls remain at serious risk.

  • Yemeni authorities presented to the press an eight year old girl, claiming it was Rawan, to disprove reports that she had died after being raped by her husband. (AFP/Getty)


    Yemen's Child Bride Mystery

    Did an eight-year-old Yemeni girl die from internal bleeding on her wedding night, or is little Rawan alive, well and unmarried? Vivian Salama on the conflicting reports coming out of Yemen's remote provinces.

    It remains a mystery whether an eight-year old Yemeni girl named Rawan is in custody or if she is dead, her body secretly buried and covered up. Reports emerged last week that she died from internal bleeding after sexual intercourse with her 40-year-old husband on the night of their wedding in the northeastern province of Hajja.

    Her story is not unlike that of many young girls in Yemen—pulled out of school to be married for a fee to an older man, often then forced to have sex and endure abuse, both physical and emotional. Yet after her death was widely reported by local and foreign press, questions surrounding the validity of the story quickly began to emerge. The local government said last week it was investigating the death of a newly-wedded child, but recanted on Tuesday, presenting local reporters with an eight-year old girl named Rawan—alive, unwed, and sharing her dreams of becoming a doctor.



    Girl’s Wedding-Night Death Denied

    After marriage to 40-year-old husband.

    Reports circulated that an 8-year-old Yemeni girl died due to vaginal tearing on her wedding night with her 40-year-old husband, but Yemeni officials reject the allegations. Mosleh Al Azzani, the local director of criminal investigation, has classified the girl’s marriage and death as rumors. “I have the photos of the girl and will show it to anyone,” Azzani told Gulf News. Some children’s rights activists claim that death allegations such as these are mechanisms for publicity and international aid. One in three girls in Yemen is married before age 18, according to the U.N.

  • Adam Reynolds/Corbis

    And she says father squandered book deal cash.

    The Yemeni child bride whose triumphant escape from an abusive marriage gained worldwide attention—spawning a best-selling book, I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced, which garnered praise from the likes of Hillary Clinton—is now claiming her father has squandered the proceeds from her book deal. When Ali was just nine years old, her father married her off to a much-older man, who abused her sexually and physically. The girl eventually ran away and—in a landmark case in Yemen—asked the court to grant a divorce. Ali’s father, who was jailed briefly after working with her ex-husband to lie about Ali’s age to the court, was getting paid $1,000 a month by the publishers to support Ali’s education. But the girl told the British press that her father has instead used the money to get married again twice—and has now betrothed Ali’s younger sister to an older man. “I won’t let it happen to her,” Ali said. ‘I will speak to as many journalists and lawyers as possible about this. It is illegal.”