Today I was at the UN attending the 41st session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and it was the turn of Yemen to report and be examined. According to the government of Yemen’s own report there is no minimum age for marriage in that country. Girls as young as eight are routinely married to much older men. Temporary marriage is also common. Wealthy male tourists marry little girls while visiting Yeman and divorce them when they leave.
Girls who marry before the age of 18 are more likely than unmarried girls to die younger, suffer from health problems, live in poverty and remain illiterate. They usually bear children before they are physically or emotionally ready and are thus nearly five times more likely to die during child birth and even more likely to lose the baby. They are more likely to contract STDs, including HIV/AIDS, than unmarried girls.
Yemen is a signatory to both the Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Woman and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Forced early marriage and the temporary marriage of little girls to adult men are violations of these conventions, but there seems to be a lack of political will to end these practices. Instead religion is used to cloak them with respectability.