Child Brides: A Global Issue Or A Tribal Custom?

Child bride: The practice of marrying young girls is widespread in Yemen and has attracted the attention of international rights groups seeking to pressure the government to outlaw child marriages

An eight-year-old child bride, Rawan, has died in Yemen of internal bleeding sustained during her wedding night after being forced to marry a man five times her age. She died in the tribal area of Hardh in northwestern Yemen, which borders Saudi Arabia.

Activists are now demanding that the groom, who is believed to be around 40 years old, and her family to be arrested. They say arrests would help put a stop to the practice of marrying very young girls to older men in the impoverished region.

“Angry Man”, a blogger, recently posted that the man was “an animal who deserved to be punished severely for his crime” and  “All those who supported such a crime should also be punished.” Another blogger, called “Omar,” wrote: “Rawan’s family members are not humans. They do not deserve to have children.” But another blogger, called “Sad”, was much more sympathetic to the custom. He wrote: “Her family and her groom could have waited for some time before having this marriage.”

The practice of marrying young girls is widespread and common in Yemen and has attracted the attention of international rights groups seeking to pressure the government to outlaw child marriages. Yemen’s gripping poverty plays a role in hindering efforts to stamp out the practice of child marriage, as poor families find themselves unable to say no to “bride-prices” that can be hundreds of dollars for their daughters. More than a quarter of Yemen’s females marry before the age of 15, according to a report in 2010 by the Social Affairs Ministry.

Tribal custom also plays a role, including the belief that a young bride can be shaped into an obedient wife, bear more children and be kept away from temptation. In September 2010, a 12-year-old Yemeni child-bride died after struggling for three days in labor.

At one time, Yemen  set the age of 15 as the minimum age for marriage, but parliament annulled that law in the 1990s, saying parents should decide when a daughter marries.

What are your general thoughts on arranged marriage? Would it be alright for certain age girls? Do you think most of the uproar comes from the fact that Yemen families are essentially “selling” their daughters to get out of poverty? Do you believe that the groom and Rawan’s family should face criminal charges? If so, to what degree?

Article and Picture Source: MailOnline


  1. On a general scale, I do not support arranged marriages as a whole. I feel that one should have the choice of whom they want to marry. Perhaps an argument could be made that if a girl was older this practice should be accepted, but in this case in particular, I feel that any argument supporting this practice would be ridiculous. In this situation, an 8 year old girl was essentially sold to a 40 year old man, someone 5 times her age, effectively leading to her death. While I do think some of the uproar comes from the fact that Yemen families are selling their daughters, I think some of the uproar equally has to do with the fact that an 8-year-old girl had her life taken. I am of the opinion that the family, and certainly the “groom” should face criminal charges, as this “arranged marriage” led to the rape and eventual murder of an 8 year old girl.

  2. What happened to Rawan is really sad and very disturbing. I come from Europe where arranged marriages are customary (with respect to adults who consent to this process), and although I personally never agreed with arranged marriages in general, what is happening in Yemen rises above and beyond the normal arranged marriage. Parents arranging marriages for there adult children without money involved, is very different from forcing your child to marry someone five times their age. Obviously, in the United States such behavior would be considered statutory rape and the groom and Rawan’s family would face criminal charges. Yemen should impose the same punishment to discourage this type of behavior. A minimum age for marriage should be reinstated, or else families like Rawan’s will continue to essentially “sell” their children for monetary gain. Rawan was only eight years old, and she was forced to marry a forty-year old who was likely the cause of her death. My hope is that the recent increase in activists and international rights groups will lead to a change in this wide-spread child-bride tradition throughout Yemen.

  3. After reading this article, noone can ignore the fact that how customs and/or traditions can result with life-taking events. Especially, in this case, if we assume that Yemen’s tradition is within the concept of “arranged marriage,” it is definitely much worse than many other countries that have the same kind of tradition. I think that arranged marriage does not always have negative outcome if it is performed properly. What I mean by “properly” is that families who would like to have their daughters or sons get married through this process must realize the fact that they are not the ones to make the ultimate decision on their daughters’ or sons’ private life. Further, individuals who will get married through this process can actually give each other some time before they make their final decision as well. Arranged marriage does not necessarily mean that the bride and the groom do not contact with each other at all before the marriage. I personally have close relative who got married through this process, and they have a happy marriage. The problem is not about having a custom for arranged marriage, the problem is how some societies perceive and practice it in a wrong way and actually outside of the concept itself.

    In Rawan’s case, this process was not performed properly. Her age constitutes a big problem because she is in no position to make any healthy decision for her future. Her family is selling her to somebody as if she is a “property.” No tradition or custom can accept this kind of action. I do not think that we should classify this specific event under the umbrella of “arranged marriage.” I strongly believe that what Rawan’s family did to her has nothing to do with the concept of the “arranged marriage.” Therefore, both the groom and Rawan’s family should face criminal charges because they are “directly” liable of her death.

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