Early marriage [Archives:2006/958/Reportage]

June 26 2006

By: Shaima Mahmoud
A field study on early marriage showed that the main factor behind early marriage is the spread of cultural orientations favoring early marriage, whereby many think Islam urges the idea.

Funded by Oxfam, the Women and Development Study Center conducted the study in cooperation with the Yemeni Network to Combat Violence Against Women. The study included only Hadramout and Hodeidah governorates.

According to the study, social structures in Hodeidah and Hadramout are typical of excessive conventions. There is no chance for social activity, which results in deteriorated ambitions of individuals belonging to low or marginalized classes. Additionally, the study stated that men are the only ones who decide marriage.

The study also indicated that women's views and their will isn't considered unless their views match men's desires and views. In case of discrepancy between the two views, the man's view is considered.

Early marriage statistics

According to the study, early marriage for women has reached 52.1 percent, based on the stories of 1,495 couples, whereas men marrying at an early age comprised only 6.7 percent. The marriage age has increased over three generations from between ages 10 and 24 to between ages 14 and 70. The study also found variations in marriage age according to the geographical districts to which Yemenis belong.

In Hodeidah, Hadramout and Sayoun, girls marry at age 8, whereas they marry at age 10 in Mukalla. Moreover, marriage age varies between urban to rural areas. It's found that the appropriate age for marriage is from 15 to 16.

Violating educational rights

According to evidence gathered during the study, illiteracy is most concentrated among women, with the illiteracy rate among those under age 18 at 6.6 percent. Those able to read and write comprise 4.3 percent, while 92.9 percent of girls are enrolled in basic and secondary education.

Such figures indicate girls' high dropout rates from school. Early marriage in itself violates women's rights, as well as those of the children to which they give birth.

A girl marrying at an early age also gives birth to a child early, sometimes losing the fetus. Many girls also undergo Caesarean sections. Additionally, they are subjected to abortion or suffer diseases following delivery due to physiological failure or knowledge defects during pregnancy.

The study's researchers worried about the absence of registered cases of violence against women, as society considers the phenomenon a family-related matter. Researchers also attributed violence against women both to the absence of effective laws and not enacting such laws.