End Child Marriage and Give Girls a Brighter Future
Child Marriage practices in Yemen caught widespread international attention with the story of 9-year-old Yemeni child bride Nujood Ali, now age 12. After enduring abuse from her husband, Ali was granted a landmark divorce at the age of 10. Her story has been written into the book I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced, and has put pressure on Yemen to end the practice of child marriages. After the Ali case, new legislation was proposed in Yemen that would raise the legal marrying age for girls to 17. However, the legislation has faced setbacks and has not yet been passed.
Recently another story from Yemen made headlines, this one with a more tragic ending. On April 2, Elham Assi, age 13, died from genital injuries and internal bleeding four days after being married off to an older man.
Child marriage is not just a problem in Yemen. According to CARE, 60 million girls around the world are married before the age of 17. UNICEF reports that in many countries, such as Bangladesh, Central African Republic, Chad, Guinea, Mali, and Niger more than 60% of women entered into a marriage or union before age 18.
As this recent tragedy in Yemen illustrates, girls’ lives are at stake. According to CARE, girls under the age of 15 are five times more likely to die of childbirth than a woman in her 20s. Girls who marry early are also more likely to drop out of school, contract HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and remain in poverty.
Child marriage is an entrenched and complex problem, but US leadership could go a long way in helping to curb end the practice worldwide. The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009 was recently introduced into US congress to address the child marriage issue. The legislation would introduce new measures for reporting the incidence of child marriage and would designate funding to prevent child marriage and to provide educational and economic opportunities to at-risk girls in the developing world.
If you live in the US join CARE’s campaign to pass the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009.