Yemen – Early Marriage & Motherhood – Impact on Yemen Development – Girls’ Rights, Education +
Author: Womens UN Report Network
Date: July 22, 2005
Early Marriage Hampering Country’s Development, Says Report
Specialists say early marriage is the main reason for the
SANAA, 26 March 2008
(IRIN) – “One girl was 14 and got married. Now she has a son and she is still a
“It should not be allowed because it deprives a
girl of enjoying her childhood.”
“One girl was married off by her parents at the age
of 14… She gave birth to her first child normally but with the second child she
Those are the words of Yemeni girls describing their
opinions of early marriage in a report by Save the Children Sweden in
cooperation with Gender-Development Research and Studies Centre at Sanaa
University entitled Gender Based Sexual Violence Against Teenage Girls in the
According to the report, Yemeni girls are deprived of
their child rights when they are prepared for motherhood at an early age. “Such
a role creates an apprehension among girls and their families that marrying is
the primary goal for girls,” the report’s research leader, Pernilla Ouis, told
Early marriage, according to the Child Rights
Convention, is a marriage that takes place before the bride or groom reach the
age of 18. In Yemen, conservative social values and poverty force girls to
marry and become young mothers before the age of 18, said Ouis. Furthermore,
many parents believe that if they marry off their daughters early, they will be
able to protect their daughters’ honour and that of the family.
However, Ouis said their study showed the very opposite.
“We have identified a strong relationship between early marriage and increased
domestic violence against girls, as well as an increase in the number of
divorces among young couples. Then you have poverty which is forcing families
to marry off their daughters to alleviate financial burdens and expenses on
Because of the conditions that girls and young mothers
face, Yemen is ranked at the very bottom of the Mothers’ Index 2007, Ouis told IRIN. Out of 33 least
developed countries, Yemen is ranked 31.
Suha Bashren, a policy and campaign officer from Oxfam,
told IRIN early marriage had a negative impact on development. She said she had
no doubt that widespread early marriage and the impact of this on society, had
contributed to Yemen’s ranking in the UN’s Human Development Index (HDI)
slipping from 148 in 2000 to 150 in 2007.
“When girls are married, they face serious physical
and psychological problems because their minds and bodies are not developed
enough for them to become wives and mothers. In addition, the lack of education
in reproductive health causes huge problems since girls do not get the support
on how to negotiate with their husbands about their sexual life and how many
children they would like to have,” said Bashren.
“This is one of the main reasons why Yemeni women have a
high fertility rate, which is about 6.5 children. When these girls become
pregnant, they face a widespread lack of health services and will have to
deliver at home. Only 20-30 percent of women in Yemen are able to deliver with
the help of skilled health personnel,” she said.
The Global Gender Gap Index 2007 indicates that women in Yemen
live in a very unequal society: Yemen ranked bottom at number 128.
According to the index (produced by the World Economic
Forum), on a scale in which 0.0 equals inequality and 1.0 equals equality,
economic empowerment and opportunity for women in Yemen was scored at 0.251,
educational attainment at 0.565, health and survival at 0.980 and political
empowerment at 0.008.
Lack of education, empowerment
According to Dr Husnia al-Kaderi, Director of
Sanaa University’s Gender-Development Research and Studies Centre, early
marriage is the main reason for the lack of education among girls and lack of
“When they get married, girls are expected to quit
school and engage in motherly activities. This is the reason why illiteracy
among Yemeni women is more than 70 percent,” Husnia told IRIN.
“Unfortunately, I am afraid that girls will face more
obstacles when they try to attend higher education. The government’s decision
to introduce a two-year compulsory service in education and health centres for
30,000 girls after completing school, will have a negative impact on girls’
scope for attending higher education institutions. If these girls are not married
when the compulsory service starts, they will definitely be married when it
ends two years later. In practice it means the current low numbers of female
students at universities will further decrease.”
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