“Brides of Death” In Yemen victims of poverty

In some parts of Yemen brides can be as young as 8 and 10.

By Iqbal Tamimi

The family of Yemeni girl who died on her wedding night, called for punishing the groom by death penalty. The girl, who died of bleeding following a savage intercourse leading to her death, had no say or choice regarding her marriage. 

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A report published by “Moab News” in Yemeni says, the family of 13 years-old, Ilham el-Ashshi, from the village of Ashah in Yemen who died on her wedding night following a severe rupture of her genitals and a fatal haemorrhage, demand retribution and death penalty for the groom, and refuse to receive her corpse. 

Ilham’s mother said ‘I demand retribution on behalf of my daughter.”, and her brother, Mahdi, said ‘God only knows what they have done to my sister. They’ve killed her. We will not accept receiving her corpse, “he also added, “What do we do with her body? We demand retribution for killing my sister. Her husband is the murderer’.

A report by the Republican hospital in Hajjah says, Ilham was already dead when her body was brought to hospital. The hospital described the cause of death “as a result of severe rupture in the genitals.” The police report quoted her husband’s claims “that she was already suffering fatigue when he married her that he was unable to make love to her because she refused him because of her fear and illness”.

Her family that is demanding retribution is the same family that forced her to get married at the age of 13.

Ilham’s marriage was part of what can be described as ‘switch marriage’, where two men marry each other’s sisters, aiming at cutting on the costs of marriage and avoid paying brides dowries. For that reason, 13 year old Ilham was forced to marry 24 years old Imad Alhakmi from the neighbouring village, in exchange for her brother’s marriage from Imad’s sister.

The civil society and the Yemeni press call those girls who are forced married while they are still minors as the “Brides of Death”. Another outrage broke when another 12 years old minor died last September while she was giving birth on Wednesday April 7, 2010, on the third day of her wedding. The cause of her death was attributed to her groom’s sexual aggression.

Human Rights activist, Majid Almzhadji said ‘The medical report issued by the main hospital in the province of Hajjah, northwest of Yemen, says the victim, Ilham Mahdi Hawwah was transferred to the hospital after 3 days of her wedding’, the cause of her death according to the medical report was ‘as a result of exposure to violent sexual assault by her husband.”.

The debates about minor’s marriages are still going on between those who oppose setting a legislation to legally define marriage age and the supporters of such policy in Yemen. The debate is still occupying the the lead pages of newspapers and the content of speeches at mosques and other various events. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, discussed this subject on the ‘Sharia and Life’ programme on Aljazeera channel, to call for the need to enact a legislation that sets the minimum age for marriage to 18 years. He said, taking into consideration the tribal culture in Yemen, the minimum age for marriage can be lowered to 16 years.

Underage marriage is common in Yemen, where 48 per cent of girls between the ages of 10 and14 are married. In some parts of the country brides can be as young as 8 and 10.

Early marriage is a feature linked to a number of social and economic conditions, customs and traditions. This is particularly true in overcrowded urban neighbourhoods and rural areas where men prefer to marry young girls because they believe they can ‘mould’ them and shape their personalities as they choose; besides the fact that men prefer girls who are less educated than themselves.

Poverty helped in spreading the ‘Misyaf’ (tourism marriage) which has spread in the past decade in Yemen, where Saudi wealthy men travel to Yemen during the summer vacation, where they take advantage of poor families’ needs, by offering to marry their young daughters for a short period of time – a fortnight to two months – without the brides knowledge of the arrangements, in return of some financial support. After the holiday is over, the groom disappears in thin air leaving behind a broken hearted young wife who does not know what has been going on.

Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East, nearly one in two residents are living below the poverty line. The living conditions can differ according to the region in which they live. In every case, children are the most vulnerable face of poverty. Their health, their well-being, and even their survival are seriously affected.

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