Eight Year Old Requests a Divorce. Seriously. And It Only Gets Worse

I’m not now and never have been a cultural relativist. When you measure the success of a society by the degree and wide availability of human happiness and liberty, as well as the avoidance of screwupedness, some cultural, political, and ethical structures fail to measure up.

And arranged marriages, particularly those that involve promising children (almost always girls) to adults… they just aren’t a good idea. In addition to the simple tragedy of coercing and constraining your children’s future and choices, there’s also just the deeply creepy aspect of it… something which recently found its most horrible expression in Yemen recently.

Simply put, some guy, allegedly with mental problems, forced his eight-year old daughter to “marry” a 30 year old man. Yemeni law apparently allows the arranged marriage of underage girls, but restricts sex “until she is ready or mature.” This restriction, unfortunately, didn’t stop her unrepentant “husband”:

Thamer is in jail now. “Yes I was intimate with her, but I have done nothing wrong, as she is my wife and I have the right and no one can stop me,” he said. “But if the judge or other people insist that I divorce her, I will do it, it’s ok.”

What a gracious concession!

While Yemeni prosecutors are trying to line up charges against the two men involved in this scheme, the local laws on arranged marriage clearly demand some further examination.

Shatha Ali Nasser confirmed that item number 15 in Yemeni civil law reads that “no girl or boy can get married before the age of 15.” However, this item was amended in 1998 so parents could make a contract of marriage between their children even if they are under the age of 15. But the husband cannot be intimate with her until she is ready or mature,” said Nasser.“This law is highly dangerous because it brings an end to a young girl’s happiness and future fruitful life. Nojoud did not get married, but she was raped by a 30-year old man.”

And there’s nothing much more to say than that.

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6 Responses to Eight Year Old Requests a Divorce. Seriously. And It Only Gets Worse

  1. natalieam says:

    Whoa nauseating! And the article you linked states that the little girl “cannot prosecute, as she is underage” – absurd! I wonder what the father’s motivation was – money perhaps? Regardless, this is the sickest, lowest form of human behaviour. Power to the little girl who put her life in her own hands!.. but she isn’t the only one that these things happen to. Appalling. It’s awful because I can’t even think of a way in which to help kids in situations like this – it is after all true by the Yemeni law and even culture, no? Intrusion here by Western society with its own laws and ethics, for example, would be hopeless.

  2. Bad says:

    Actually, that part’s not really that absurd, I think. All that means as far as I can tell is that children cannot make legal filings by themselves: they need a guardian or at least some adult to make the case on their own behalf. I’m honestly not certain that it isn’t the same way in the US: it’s mostly a legalistic matter of standing and competence.

    Everything else, though: horrible.

  3. Daloo3a says:

    This can be normal, perhaps if she was from a poor family.. her father perhaps thought it was best for her.. it is however…… appalling and inshallah she will be ok..

  4. Bad says:

    She was indeed from a poor family, and there is some suggestion that her father was actually mentally ill in some manner. Still, it certainly sounds like the law on arranged marriages needs some improvements: even if this particular case was technically outside what is allowed (i.e. sex with underage brides), the whole institution is very problematic when legally defined in this manner at all.

  5. ausyoyo says:

    This is horrific but the only thing that makes it newsworthy is the strength of this girl in trying to get some rights through the legal system. If the facts are that her father is mentally ill that may explain her amazingly precocious independence. Many children of mentally ill parents have to take on adult responsibilities too early.

    Leaving that aside, I find it very sad that the US driven “war on drugs” (bwahaha), has lead to a massive increase in girls being sold into marriage in Afghanistan so called drug debt marriages. we were told that one of the key justifications of the “good” war was to stop the abuse of women under the Taliban’s rule, the irony is that our policies are causing equivalent abuse.

  6. Bad says:

    That’s really sad to hear, I had not heard of that practice.

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