8-Year-Old Yemen Child Bride ‘Rawan’ Dies of Internal Bleeding on Wedding Night
An 8-year-old Yemeni girl forcibly married to a man five times her age has died of internal bleeding on her wedding night.
The girl, identified only by her first name, Rawan, died late last week after being wedded to a 40-year-old man in the town of Meedi in Hajjah province, northwestern Yemen.
“On the wedding night and after intercourse, she suffered from bleeding and uterine rupture which caused her death,” Arwa Othman, a human rights campaigner and head of Yemen House of Folklore, told Reuters. “They took her to a clinic but the medics couldn’t save her life.”
According to Othman, Yemeni authorities have taken no punitive action against the girl’s family or the husband who allegedly raped her to death. A local security official reportedly denied the incident had even taken place, but two Meedi residents told Reuters that the girl had indeed bled to death following her wedding and that local tribal chiefs had attempted to cover up the story.
It is quite common for poor Yemeni families to marry off their young daughters, often to older men, in order to save money that would have been spent on raising them, as well as to collect dowries given to the girls. Poverty is widespread in Yemen, especially in rural areas, and desperate families often resort to effectively selling their daughters into marriages that are too often characterized by rape, abuse and even death.
According to United Nations data cited by Human Rights Watch (HRW), around one in seven Yemeni girls marry before the age of 15, and just over half are wedded before their 18th birthday. Many child brides-to-be are also kept out of school from the time they reach puberty. In 2011, HRW urged the Yemeni government to outlaw child marriage, but ongoing political turmoil has largely sidelined debate on the issue.
“Yemen’s political crisis has left issues such as child marriage at the bottom of the political priority list,” Nadya Khalife, a women’s rights researcher at HRW, said in 2011. “But now is the time to move on this issue… Girls should not be forced to be wives and mothers… [Yemeni] leaders should seize the opportunity to correct an injustice that does enormous harm.”