Feminizing poverty and dangers of early marriage [Archives:2005/833/Culture]

April 14 2005

Taiz Bureau
Early marriage are considered as a distinctive feature in Yemen and is vastly spread both in the rural and urban areas. It is closely related to the customs that prevail in the society that consider early marriages as a way to protect the delinquency and completeness of religion. It is a phenomenon which has negative reflections affecting the individuals' lives in particularly and the society as well as its development.

Early marriages are one of the main reasons for the rise of population in Yemen, with the growth rate at 3.5% and the fertility rate at 7.4 for women. Early marriages are a basic reason for the increase of fatal rate of children below 5 years, which is about 94.8 % and the fatal rate of pregnant mothers, which is at 351 per 100,000 births. Statistics indicate that the rate of young mothers (of the class 10- 19) is 75%.

A report issued by the Central Statistics Organization (CSO) according to the Democratic Survey on Child and Mother Health stated that early marriages are spread among the age class of 15 to 18 since the rate reached 48 % of which 13 % have been married more than once.

The Base Survey on Reproductive Health in 2000 indicated that 24.6 % of women are married between the ages 10 – 14 years and 65 % between 15 -19 years. The problem doesn't lie in early marriages but in early pregnancy and delivery.

Educational level and its relation with early marriages

Official statistics show that early marriages are related to the husband's illiteracy, as an illiterate husband prefers his wife to be young in age.

According to the results of the democratic survey, the second cycle in 1997, the rate of married women at 15 or below is the rate of illiterate husbands, whereas the rate of women at 16-18 is 43 %.

Studies and research that have been made on women's education decrease the phenomenon of early marriages. The more educated a woman is, the later her marriage will be. The results of a poverty survey in 1999 showed that one of the reasons of basic educational attrition either among the poor or the rich is marriage. The rate of attrition caused by marriages among poor families is 1.9 % of males and 2.4% of females; among the rich, the rate is 2.8 % of males and 0.4% of females.

Reasons for early marriage:

A variety of studies reported that the reasons of early marriages in Yemen are as follows:

1. The economical status of families and level of poverty

2. The majority of the Yemeni families consider early marriages as protecting the family's honor.

3. Attrition of students is one of the reasons: the educated family does not let their sons and daughters marry before finishing their studies.

4. The desire for increasing the number of children due to some thoughts that prevail among some families. Researchers indicate that customs and traditions are the main reasons behind early marriages. Besides being related to customs, early marriages are also caused by the religious aspect of the Yemeni society that deals with marriage as a religious duty and a way of protecting either the man or the woman from committing misdeeds.

Consequences of early marriage:

Studies and statistics point out that early marriages result in many negative consequences at an individual, family and social level. It proves that early marriages contribute to the increase of illiteracy and poverty in the Yemeni society in general and among women in particular. It is also a principal factor that increases the fertility rate in Yemen which has a negative affect on the children as well as the mother's health and other negative aspects.

According to a study on the rural women's status and gender issues in 2001 prepared by Dr. Fuad Al-Salahi, rural women are still suffering from high illiteracy rates that reach 79%.

Others think that early marriages are a reason for the poverty of the Yemeni women: early marriages hinder women to join the laborer's market. The high rate of fertility as well as the reproductive role of Yemeni women is the result of the phenomenon of early marriages that deprive the girl from enough education, qualifications and training that will enable her to get a job; she becomes free for her family without receiving any kind of payments.

Health consequences of early marriages

National Population Policy pointed out that the indicators of public health and reproductive health in particular, either of mothers or women at pregnancy age, are still below the expectations. About 25% of women between 15- 40 are suffering from malnutrition and 47% of births are accompanied with some side effects. All this coincides with unhealthy reproductive behavior since 37% of births are born while there is no more than 24 months between the two pregnancies of which 18% are separated from the each other with less than 18 months and 16% of mothers deliver before 20.

A study on adolescence by Nuriah Al-Huri mentioned that early marriages and pregnancy subjects women to many health dangers. She said that early marriages affect their social and acedemic status when they take early family responsibility. This results in their deprivation of education. Marriage and pregnancy of young wives make the infant's weight lighter than the normal measure due to the uncomplete physical growth of mothers.

Since this phenomenon is of great vitality, the governmental and non-governmental authorities have put a number of solutions which is included in the Government General Project of 2003 and the National Strategy of Integrating Youth in Development. There are many other solutions that the government is trying to implement besides raising awareness of the dangers of early marriages and its consequences on the individual, family, and society.