On religious grounds

Human Rights Watch on child (meaning girl) marriage in Yemen.

Fourteen-year-old Reem, from Sanaa, was 11 years old when her father married her to her cousin, a man almost 21 years her senior. One day, Reem’s father dressed her in a niqab (the Islamic veil that covers the face, exposing only the eyes), and took her by car to Radda,150 kilometers southeast of Sanaa, to meet her soon-to-be husband. Against Reem’s will, a quick religious marriage ensued. Three days after she was married, her husband raped her. Reem attempted suicide by cutting her wrists with a razor. Her husband took her back to her father in Sanaa, and Reem then ran away to her mother (her parents are divorced). Reem’s mother escorted her to court in an attempt to get a divorce. The judge told her, “We don’t divorce little girls.” Reem replied, “But how come you allow little girls to get married?”

Because Aisha, that’s why.

In 1999 Yemen’s parliament, citing religious grounds, abolished article 15 of Yemen’s Personal Status Law, which set the minimum age for marriage for boys and girls at 15. Yemen currently has no minimum age for marriage.

On religious grounds. The grounds are: Mo married Aisha when she was a child, therefore it is anti-religious to make laws saying no one can marry a child that young. Laws that say that are implicitly saying that Mo did a wrong thing, and that would be anti-religious. Therefore little girls have to have their bodies and lives ruined, so that no one will ever think Mo did a wrong thing.



  1. says

    My primary response to this is an anger and despair that I have no idea how to express in typed form.

    My daughter is 4, she’s going through a period of testing her boundaries that is obnoxious to say the least. And still, STILL, I cherish her. I cannot fathom the depths of dehumanization that must go on in order for a father to treat his daughter that way, as chattel to be disposed of as soon as possible. Nor can I fathom how a society not only tacitly condones this, but actively modified the law that at at least went a small way to reducing the harm.

  2. says

    Yes, Aisha is the reason, pretty much. I wonder what Reza Aslan or other people who argue that the lack of economic development is the better lens to view these issues would say about this, because it’s one of the clearest examples of Beliefs Matter I know of. I got into an argument with someone on this subject years ago, and he listened to me quietly as I laid out the case against child marriage. When I was done he just said something very close to “The prophet did it, who are you to tell me it’s wrong?” I was floored. I’m convinced the idolization of the prophet and the complete ban on criticism of him is one of the main reasons the Arab world is so backwards on human rights issues. There are liabilities to having a 7th century tribal warlord as you moral guide. Who’d ever have guessed.

  3. says

    These girls should be growing up into women, their first sexual experience should be one of mutual consent, they should have all the time in the world to enjoy the wonders of life without having their childhood ripped away, their fathers dropping them into “marriages”, their “husbands” raping them. I can easily imagine the fear these girls feel.

    I has a sad and a angry and a depressed now.

  4. says


    …other people who argue that the lack of economic development is the better lens to view these issues would say about this…

    I think religion is a factor, certainly – it’s not either/or problem – but there’s something more than Islam at play in this example. The not-particularly-Islamic Mozambique, Liberia and CAR all have greater or equivalent rates of child marriage…


  5. Pinky says

    I have read Mrs. Mo the prophet and from a later cult of personality – the Mormons, Joe Smith’s wife both were somewhat doubtful about their husband’s respective deities personally approving Mohammed / Joesph Smith’s sexual improprieties.

    Both women though it strange Allah / Yahweh would wholeheartedly agree and encourage any and every perversion the two men fantasied about.

    But who were they to question Allah / Yahweh. If their gods want to condone polygamy (for men only) and pedophilia who could argue, outside of rational, ethical people that is.

  6. loren amacher says

    I spent some time a few years ago in Yemen, on a medical project. I saw lots of these young brides, usually from the rural, hilly areas, many of them post-partum by 13 or 14, and a lot of them with urinary-vaginal or recto-vaginal fistulas, which just destroy them – husbands abandon them and the child, family won’t take them back. They are small women to begin with, and childbirth while they are still, basically, children is an atrocity. The cultural relativists in matters like this should simply go fuck themselves.

  7. says

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