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Marriage Choice for Women in Yemen: Early Marriage or No Marriage
  Written By: Abdul Rahim Al-Showthabi (YEMEN POST STAFF)
  Article Date:
January 19, 2009



"I 'm not young anymore to get married. I am in my late thirties so it is not easy," said 38 year-old and primary school teacher Mona.

The norms of our society compel a woman to make unsatisfied choices to marry as early as possible or to remain single beyond the usual age. However, thousands of women struggle during the time they remain unmarried.

According to a new study conducted by researcher Shuroog Ba-Mogbl, more than half a million women go above their thirties and still stay unmarried. Also the motive behind spinster was revealed as the society has negative thoughts towards working women.

"Hearing negative comments about educated women, I prefer to marry uneducated rural girls as I believe that uneducated girls are more innocent and easier to control," said 27 year old Rashid Al-Sa'di.

"If we can liberate ourselves a little from having bad feelings towards educated women, we won't have the big crisis of early marriage in Yemen," said lawyer and human rights activist Afra Hariri. "People's way of thinking towards educated women and divorced ones raises the issue of spinster in the country" she added.

Belqis Al-Lahabi a human rights activist who also passed through struggles of being unmarried, said that educated women often prefer to marry wealthy men and this is one reason for the delay of their marriages, which also leads them to marry older men.

Sociology professor at Sana'a University Adel Al-Sharjabi said that late marriage is believed to be a crisis not only in Yemen but also in all Arab countries. "The period of time in which the woman stays unmarried is harmful as her behavior is watched and her movements are monitored more than others," he added.

In a country where many older women are struggling to get  married, the rate of early marriages are increasing dramatically. The wait that older women go through leads younger women to get married as early as possible.

"I don't know anything about my childhood only a girl who had to bring water from a far away water wells," said 28 year-old Daula Hassan who got married 15 years ago to a man in her father's age. "If I have something to regret, it is my childhood," she added.

Volunteer lawyer of (Nujood, Arwa and Reem,) who all got married before the age of 14, Shatha Nasser said that the reasons that led her clients' families to accept early marriages for their daughters was their parents financial reasons.

The law before 1990 stated that the girl must reach the age of sixteen to get married and any marriage before the limited age is a crime and those who violate the law must be imprisoned not less than a year and not more than three years and pay money for the woman as a compensation.  

"It is a potential risk that men turn to marry younger girls and leave adult ones," said Head of the Sister Arab Forum for Human Rights, Amal Basha.  

Researcher and parliament member Faud Dahabh believes that under age marriage is not permitted in Sharia if it harms the girl. He went on that numerous cases of early marriages assured that many girls were harmed when they got married early.     

Sana'a university faculty of law professor Abdul Mo'men Shuja' Al-Dein said that the new law does not make it clear as it states that the marriage of the child girl is illegal." "The law also states that the silence of a woman when asked for marriage is a sign of acceptance and this law is against the international agreements that Yemen signed," he added.

Locals who got married at a early age describe their practice of sex with their wives to bakers who bake bread in cold ovens.

Professor and jurisprudence's professor and ex-head of the Faculty of Law Sana'a University Hassan Al-Ahdel stated that it is not fair to force a female child to get married early because such a marriage could result to many problems.

He revealed that famous Islamic scholars as Abu Hainfah fixes marriage age at 18 and considers this age to be the minimum, because a man or a woman becomes full-grown and able to take decisions out of his own sense and consideration.

Early marriage is one of the biggest development challenges in Yemen according to Naseem-Ur-Rehman, Chief Information Officer at UNICEF Sana’a. A 2006 field study revealed that child marriage among Yemeni girls reached 52.1%, compared to 6.7% among males. The study, conducted by the Woman and Development Study Center, affiliated to Sana’a University, looked at 1,495 couples.