Recently, an the 8 year old bride of a 40 year old Yemeni man, died from internal injuries on her wedding night, bleeding to death after deep tearing caused by sex. This is a practice that has deep cultural and religious roots in Yemen, and will be difficult to eradicate. In 2009, a law was passed to establish the age for marriage at 17, but a prominent Islamic cleric, issued a fatwa in support of the practice, declaring supporters of a ban on child brides to be apostates, and ultimately leading a successful campaign against the legislation.
It is tempting to blame this entirely on Fundamentalist Islam, and indeed that is certainly a major factor. However, placing the blame entirely on Islam is simplifying and misrepresenting the problem. In Yemen 48 per cent of girls between the ages of 10 and 14 are married, this form of child abuse is largely driven by patriarchy, poverty, and lack of education.
Early marriage is a feature linked to a number of social and economic conditions, customs and traditions. This is particularly true in overcrowded urban neighbourhoods and rural areas where men prefer to marry young girls because they believe they can ‘mould’ them and shape their personalities as they choose; besides the fact that men prefer girls who are less educated than themselves.
Poverty helped in spreading the ‘Misyaf’ (tourism marriage) which has spread in the past decade in Yemen, where Saudi wealthy men travel to Yemen during the summer vacation, where they take advantage of poor families’ needs, by offering to marry their young daughters for a short period of time – a fortnight to two months – without the brides knowledge of the arrangements, in return of some financial support. After the holiday is over, the groom disappears in thin air leaving behind a broken hearted young wife who does not know what has been going on.
In a previous post, I discussed some of the countries where the practice is widespread, and those issues of religiosity, patriarchy, and poverty are three things all these regions have in common. Religions involved include, Islam, Christianity, Animism, Hindu, and other not identified. Childhood marriage is not the only challenge that women face in the developing world. In 2011, Trust Law, a division of Thomson Reuters Foundation, identified the 5 most dangerous countries in the world in which to be born female.
TrustLaw asked 213 gender experts from five continents to rank countries by overall perceptions of danger as well as by six risks: health threats, sexual violence, non-sexual violence, cultural or religious factors, lack of access to resources and trafficking.
- Women in Afghanistan have a one in 11 chance of dying in
- Some 87 % of women are illiterate.
- 70-80 % of girls and women face forced marriages.
2. Democratic Republic of Congo
- About 1,150 women are raped every day, or some 420,000 a year.
- Recruitment of females as soldiers who are also used as sex slaves
- 57 pct of pregnant women are anaemic.
- More than 1,000 women and girls are victims of “honour killings” every year.
- 90 % of women in Pakistan face domestic violence.
- Women earn 82 % less than men.
- 100 million people, mostly women and girls, are involved in trafficking in one way or another.
- Up to 50 million girls are “missing” over the past century due to female infanticide and foeticide.
- 44.5 % of girls are married before the age of 18.
- 95 % of women face genital mutilation, mostly between the ages of 4 and 11.
- Only 9 pct of women give birth at a health facility.
Other countries are dangerous as well. For example, in South Sudan, the maternal death rate is over 2,000 per 100,000 birth. That is twice the rate as in Somalia, the highest on the list above.
women accounted for most new HIV infections, with around two out of three people newly infected being reported as female. Two crucial reasons why this may be are that one in three women experience sexual violence before the age of 18 showing how vulnerable young girls are in the country.The common practice of polygamy also puts women at greater risk of becoming infected with HIV as this practice often involves multiple sexual partners. However the major route of transmission in 2011 remains through heterosexual contact among persons with one sexual partner.
Over the entire world, women are more disadvantaged than men, in some areas it is a deadly disadvantage.