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Another Tragic Child Bride Story in Yemen

Apr 9, 2010 – 5:43 PM
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Dana Kennedy

Dana Kennedy Contributor

(April 9) -- A 12-year-old Yemeni girl has died of internal bleeding caused by intercourse during her wedding night after being married off to a much older man, the latest in a series of tragic stories involving the country's child brides.

The girl's name was Elham Mahdi, a Yemeni human rights group said.

UNICEF officials said the girl died three days after being married on March 29 to a man at least twice her age. Yemeni officials have not confirmed or commented on her death.

"We are dismayed by the death of yet another child bride in Yemen," UNICEF's regional director, Sigrid Kaag, told Reuters. "It's a painful reminder of the risks girls face when they are married too soon."

The number of disturbing incidents involving child brides led human rights groups to press Yemeni officials to outlaw marriage for girls under 17. The law passed in 2009. Currently, more than a quarter of Yemeni girls are married before the age of 15 to older men with at least one other wife, according to a 2006 study by San'a University.

But the law was overturned because some Yemeni political leaders said it was "un-Islamic." The issue, however, which stems from the tribal structure in the country, is still under debate.

The Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights group told CNN that said the girl died in an area in western Yemen last week.

The group cited what they said was a medical report at the hospital where she was treated indicating that her genitals were torn and she had severe bleeding after intercourse.

Another 12-year-old Yemeni child bride died in September, but in her case death occurred during childbirth when the baby also died.

Fawziya Ammodi died of severe bleeding after three days in labor, Ahmed al-Qureshi, president of the Seyaj Organization for the Protection of Children, told CNN.

Al-Qureshi said the girl's death was a direct result of no medical care but said the larger factor was the absence of education for many people in Yemen and the child marriage problem.

The issue of child brides in Yemen came to international attention in 2008 when 10-year-old Nujood Ali was married to a man in his 30s who beat and raped her after their wedding.

Nujood escaped back to her parents' house where an aunt urged her to go to the courthouse, alone, to get a divorce. After a trial, she was granted a divorce and returned home to live with her parents.
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