In most parts of the world, it is unthinkable for a girl to be married before puberty. The minimum age is usually eighteen, or at least sixteen.
In Yemen, however, it’s a different story. There has been no minimum age for marriage since 1999, when the law was changed for religious reasons. The decision on when a girl can be married is left up to her parents.
A number of stories have appeared in the press in recent months, highlighting the effects of child marriage in Yemen… A fifteen-year-old girl was burnt to death by her father, for being in contact with her fiancé by phone. An eight-year-old girl was rumoured to have died of internal injuries on the night of her wedding. An eleven-year-old girl publicly disowned and rebuked her parents in a video that went viral on YouTube for seeking to arrange her marriage. And, in the last few days, police reportedly stopped the marriage of a nine-year-old from taking place.
A quarter of Yemeni women marry below the age of fifteen, and half before the age of eighteen, so this is clearly a societal problem. Often it comes down to money… A dowry is paid when the marriage takes place, and this will provide for the rest of the family or be used to pay off debts. In a country where approximately forty-five percent live below the poverty line, this can make a real difference, so the temptation is huge!
This video, made by Human Rights Watch, gives an excellent outline of the child marriage issue in Yemen. It includes feedback from women who were married young as well as from a father who regrets marrying his daughters off.
In addition to sharing the gospel and discipling believers, Arab World Media has a strong transformational development ministry. We produce an online magazine full of articles and videos on social issues such as child brides, pornography, rape, domestic abuse, etc. Our magazine Hayat (Life) challenges people’s perceptions of life and behaviour by addressing current social issues from a biblical perspective. Our aim is to see communities transformed by the power of Christ. We firmly believe that faith in Christ is about being transformed by what we believe!
Last year, we produced a video to address the issue of child brides in Yemen. Almost 130,000 people viewed it on our YouTube channel.
Please pray that as we minister on such sensitive topics, God will minister to people in their hour of greatest need. Pray that we would respond lovingly and sensitively to those who get in touch with us and who may have completely different world views. Pray that the love of Jesus would touch many hearts and minds in Yemen and throughout the rest of the Arab world.