Stop another Nujood’s story from happening [Archives:2008/1146/Viewpoint]

April 14 2008

No one denies that the Yemeni society is a male dominant one whereby men have the upper hand in almost everything. It is also known that early marriage for boys but especially for girls exists. However, the story of Nujood the eight year old girl who was forced into marrying a man 22 years older is a sign of warning.

In any society, it is the women and children that get affected most by social, political, economic, health or educational problems. If the child is a female then the double vulnerability automatically falls upon the child girl and makes her victim number one. She is the first to be sacrificed and the last to be fed. First hand information show that because of poverty, basic needs such as nutrition, health care or education get channelized to cover the male members of the house. The first priority is generally the father since he is the bread earner or even just because he represents the male domination if he does not work. Second comes the male children who represent the continuity of the family's name and future supporters, then comes the mother since she is the care taker and finally it is the female children who are seen as a wasted investment since they eventually get married and go away.

The issue is not a personal case of an eight year old girl who was forced to grow too soon and live with a man who demanded so much from her. It is the story of hundreds of Yemeni girls who have lost their innocence to a cruel society and harsh circumstances. It is the story of the absence of a good law, the lack of implementation and monitoring systems that make sure whatever legislation is being applied in reality. It is the story of an ever-growing social tension and economic deterioration that forces humans into a state of barbaric crudeness. What was not reported in Nujood's case is that her two elder sisters have been equally abused by the father and married off to abusive husbands at an early age, although not as young as Nujood. This shows a scary trend as the father's conscience is getting worse with the years as the age of his daughters sold out in a marriage contract gets younger. Luckily Nujood is the youngest female in that family.

It is my firm belief that the solution for such an issue must start immediately and through society mobilization. People must start taking responsibility for their neighborhoods and not turn a deaf ear as if it does not concern them. Although I appreciate the uncle's position to support her in her trial against her husband and take the role of the guardian, I cannot help but wonder where was he when the marriage was discussed or even during the two months this child was sexually and physically abused.

As educated Yemeni people we must start advocating for children's rights and stop such violations. We must live up to our Islamic teachings which tell us to stop harm from being inflicted on others.

The feedback we got in Yemen Times for following up this case is amazing, especially from outside Yemen. Salute to all the kind people who expressed their support for Nujood and wanted to help. Special thanks to the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs who offered support to Nujood.