An eight-year-old child bride has died in Yemen of internal bleeding sustained during her wedding night after being forced to marry a man five times her age, activists have claimed.
The girl, identified only as Rawan, died in the tribal area of Hardh in northwestern Yemen. Activists are now calling for the arrest of the groom, a 40-year-old man, and her family. They say the arrest would help put a stop to the practice of marrying very young girls to older men in the impoverished region. The practice of marrying young girls is widespread in Yemen and has attracted the attention of international rights groups seeking to pressure the government to outlaw child marriages.
Yemen's gripping poverty plays a role in hindering efforts to stamp out the practice, as poor families find themselves unable to say no to 'bride-prices' that can be hundreds of dollars for their daughters. More than a quarter of Yemen's females marry before age 15, according to a report in 2010 by the Social Affairs Ministry. Tribal custom also plays a role, including the belief that a young bride can be shaped into an obedient wife, bear more children and be kept away from temptation.
In September 2010, a 12-year-old Yemeni child-bride died after struggling for three days in labour to give birth, a local human rights organisation said.
Yemen once set 15 as the minimum age for marriage, but parliament annulled that law in the 1990s, saying parents should decide when a daughter marries.