Monday, September 14, 2009

The Brides of Death

A 12-year-old Yemeni girl, who was forced into marriage, has died during a difficult delivery in which her baby also died, a children's rights organisation said on Sunday, demanding action to stop Yemeni men taking child brides.

Raised in an impoverished family with a father suffering from kidney failure, Fawziya was forced to drop out of school and was married off at the age of 11. Such marriages are widespread on Yemen's Red Sea coast. Since young girls fetch a good bride-price, almost half of all little girls and teenage females are married(sold) off before the age of 15 in rural parts of Yemen, one of the world's poorest countries despite its proximity to oil-rich Saudi Arabia.

Last year, a Yemeni court granted a divorce to ten year old girl whose unemployed father forced her into an arranged marriage with a man 20 years her senior, because of the bride price she fetched, but later saying he feared she might otherwise be kidnapped by the would-be spouse.

Zana Muhsen was a 15-year-old English schoolgirl of Arab-British descent when her Yemeni father sold her in England in 1983 for $3000 to a countryman as a wife for his 14-year-old son. Her sister, Nadia, also 14, was sold for the same purpose and bride price to another Yemeni, whose son was 13.

The two sisters were detained against their will in Yemen for eight years with husbands they did not want, having babies they did not want, before diplomatic pressure and assistance from the international media finally freed Zana. Nadia stayed behind because of her children, who, due to the bride price, always remain with the father in case of a divorce.

In her best-selling book, Sold: A Story of Modern-Day Slavery, Zana outlined the two British sisters’ years of suffering, physical abuse and primitive living and working conditions in Yemen.

This is the 2007 UNICEF photo of the year representing the plight of the millions of girls sold as child brides every year.