The shame of child brides

The plight of many young girls in parts of the world is horrendous, ranging all the way from being denied equal access to education to suffering genital mutilation and being forced to marry older men. In a report, Human Rights Watch says that Yemen is a country in which child marraige is common because here is no legal minimum age and girls as young as eight are married off, denying them the right to a childhood and education, and often suffering serious abuse.

Neetzan Zimmerman tells the story of a brave 11-year old Yemeni girl Nada al-Ahdal who fled a marriage. With the aid of an uncle, Nada managed to avoid being forced into marriage to a rich man by her parents. Her uncle’s sister had self-immolated after being forced to marry against her wishes and he was determined to not let his niece Nada suffer the same fate. He managed to get the prospective groom to call it off by saying that Nada did not wear the veil and liked to sing and would continue to do so and so was clearly not going to be a ‘good’ Muslim wife. But then she was promised to another man by her parents and she ran away.

Here is Cenk Uygur showing a video that Nada has made.

While her video is inspiring, it is also heartbreaking that a 11-year old has been forced to have an awareness of such adult things, instead of just playing with her friends and going to school and doing other normal childhood things.

Like Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, I hope these highly articulate young women become the inspiration for young women and men the world over to throw off the barbaric practices of their parents.


  1. slc1 says

    It is my understanding that Mohammed married a 9 year old girl. What’s good enough for the Prophet is good enough for his followers.

  2. says

    I hate “we’ve always done it that way.”

    Those are the worst seven words to ever be uttered by any man or woman in history.

    Those words have excused barbarism, murder, slavery, rape, torture, ignorance, greed, inequality, intolerance, bigotry, and hate. Those words have left generations in darkness, have killed countless souls, have left girls like this one broken and abused, and have beaten back progress for hundreds if not thousands of years. Those words produce no good, no progress, no understanding, and no enlightenment. Those are not the words of the scientist, or the humanitarian, or the artist. Those are the words of the tyrant and the demagogue.

  3. left0ver1under says

    In India, young children as young as three are subjected to “arranged marriages”, their lives decided for them before they are even able to read, never mind reason. The Indian “brides and grooms” may be of the same age and thus there are no pedophilic marriages, but it’s still abhorrent. And that’s without mentioning issues like dowries, preventing girls from having an education, dishonour killings, etc.

  4. Corvus illustris says

    Before USAmericans get too smug about these matters, they might want to look at the “marriageable ages” in the various states. Young women of ages as low as 13 can marry, particularly if pregnant, and not just in the South (New Hampshire!). The possibilities for abuse are obvious, even though a situation comparable in horror to Nada’s would be very unlikely.

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