Saturday, August 16, 2008

Child Marriages

Two stories to come out this month concerning the "child marriages" - not just predominantly young girls, but in some cases, of young boys as well.

From Saudia Arabia - Saudi Activists & Clerics Demand An End To Child Marriages
Child Marriages have been "... widely denounced by activists, clerics and others who say such unions are harmful to the children and trivialise the institution of marriage. Saudi Arabia is already rocked by a high divorce rate that has jumped from 25 per cent to 60 per cent over the past 20 years.

There are no laws in Saudi Arabia defining the minimum age for marriage. Though a woman's consent is legally required, some marriage officials do not seek it. For example, a father can marry off a one-year-old girl as long as sex is delayed until she reaches puberty.

There are no statistics to show how many marriages involving children are performed every year. And it's also not clear whether these unions are on the rise or whether people are hearing about them more now because of the prevalence of media outlets and easy access to the internet.

But the phenomenon is not new, said Shaikh Mohammad Al Nujaimi, a strong opponent of the marriages. He and other clerics, activists and writers have urged the government to pass legislation setting the minimum age for marriage and to resolve differences among the kingdom's religious authorities over the issue."

And from Yeman - Girls Had Their Childhood "Returned"
"Child marriage is on the rise in Yemen. Poverty, illiteracy, a growing population and a lack of legislation preventing the practice are among the major reasons behind the phenomenon.

A group of human rights activists, lawmakers, and journalists last week called to protect children, especially girls, from such marriages. The call came in a gathering held to celebrate the divorces of three little girls after being forced into marriage.

Activists should continue to lobby until a law is issued to prevent any marriage under 18, and organise awareness campaigns to educate people about the dangers of such marriages.

Poverty and illiteracy are behind most child marriages in Yemen. Illiteracy is higher than 50 per cent and is 75 per cent among women and about 8 million people out of a population of 22 million live below the poverty line.

Yemen is ranked 13th among the worst 20 countries in terms of child marriage according to a 2007 report by a local think-tank."

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