It takes a nation to protect the nation
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Security forces fired on anti-government protesters in Yemen‘s capital Sunday as hundreds of thousands of marchers — including many women — packed cities around the country to denounce the president and remarks he made against women taking part in rallies demanding his ouster.
Women (who else) protesting against (widespread) underage Marriage(s) in Yemen ->
Yemeni women rally for minimum age marriage
Hundreds of women call for rejecting any demand to reconsider proposed marriage age bill.
Middle East Online
SANAA - Hundreds of women rallied outside Yemen's parliament on Tuesday in support of a law setting a minimum age for marriage in the country, two days after a larger protest opposing the law.
And here the Situation that opened the Discussion ->
[KHALED FAZAA/AFP/Getty Images] Former child brides Nujoud Ali (L) and Arwa (R) after their divorces in 2008.
In 2008, Nujoud Ali, 8, escaped from her 42-year-old husband's house, travelled alone from her village to Sanaa by taxi, found a courthouse and asked to see a judge.
With unprecedented courage, she pleaded with him to grant her a divorce.
She got what she wanted, and the marriage was annulled.
Two years later, the issue of underage marriage continues to generate controversy in Yemen. A bill setting 17 as the minimum age of marriage for girls has triggered an intense political and religious debate inside and outside the halls of parliament, with many taking to the streets to express their views.
Thousands of Yemeni women demonstrated outside parliament on March 23rd in support of the marriage age amendment. Several civil society organisations called for passing the bill, which was submitted over a year ago.
The bill bans the marriage of girls under 17 and imposes severe penalties upon the girl's family, husband and all those deemed in violation of the law.
The rally came a few days after a demonstration against the law, organised in response to calls by extremist and conservative currents.
"I came here today with the protestors to demand that parliament ban marriage before the age of 17, and make that law permanent," Nujoud, now a 10-year-old divorcee, said.
Nujood's story drew local and international attention. She travelled to New York after winning Glamour magazine's Woman of the Year Award and became an international symbol of women's rights.
She soon published a book entitled, "I Am Nujood, Age 10, and Divorced."
The court's decision to grant Nujood a divorce made her the first divorced child bride in the country, inspiring others to seek annulments and divorces.
Reem al-Numairi, age 12, got her divorce in 2009. Sali Al Sabahi, age 12, became a divorcee in March.
But many other child brides remain married, and in Yemen, this is not uncommon. According to UNICEF, 25% of Yemeni girls in marry before the age of 15.
During the past two years alone, 52% of Yemeni girls and 7% of Yemeni males married before turning 15, according to a recent study by the Centre of Social Gender Research and Studies at Sanaa University.
The overwhelming majority of early marriages occur in rural areas. In some villages, they are married as young as 8 or 10 years of age.
In response to the campaign by civil society groups, Yemeni MP Muhammad Al-Hazmi distributed a fatwa against setting a minimum age for marriage. His colleague, Hazza Maisori, announced his intention to collect five million signatures against the bill and submit it to the Yemeni president and parliament.
The parliamentarians argued that setting a marrying age is not Islamic.
But others disagree. Reformist MP Shawki al-Qadi criticised religious opposition to the bill. There is no prohibition in Sharia against a minimum marriage age, especially given that early marriage causes health problems to the child bride, al-Qadi said.
The chairwoman of the National Committee for Women, Rashida Al-Hamadani, said that the issue is political. She accused the bill's critics of trying to give it a religious dimension.
"Religiously speaking, this matter is controversial, and the texts dealing with it are ambivalent, " she said. "The minimum marriage age was applicable under Ottoman rule, and the insistence of the prophet not to marry off his daughter Fatima until the age of 18 reinforces our stand," she added.
For Ahmad Qurashi, head of the SEYAJ organization for child protection, the opposition to the bill is a desperate attempt to use religion to generate support for early election campaigns.
"We have warned against using religion against those who have different opinions because it depicts human rights advocates as irreligious people. This encourages extremists to physically eliminate human rights activists, and this is very dangerous," Al-Qurashi added.
Shura Council president Abd al-Aziz Abd Al-Ghani said that parliamentary efforts to set a minimum marriage age are Islamic because they aim to achieve an objective approved by sharia, which is requiring adulthood as a legal prerequisite for marriage.
"Marriage of a minor, helpless girl makes her a victim for whoever seeks to marry her, regardless of the age difference and fitness requirements," Abd Al-Ghani said.
Prior to Yemen's unification in 1990, the law set the minimum age of marriage at 16 in South Yemen and 15 in the north. After unification, the law was set at 15. In 1999, the civil law was amended and the minimum age was abolished.