8-Year-Old Girl Seeks A Divorce
Posted by shadmia on April 17, 2008
When it comes to women’s issues, there are 2 institutionalized cultural practices in some countries that I think are just plain wrong. One is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and the other is Pedophilia. Both of these are practiced in Yemen. The following story is about an 8-year-old Yemeni girl who was “married” to a 28-year-old man with the blessing of her father.
8-year-old Nojoud Muhammed Nasser arrived at court by herself on Wednesday, April 2, looking for a judge to handle her case against her father, Muhammed Nasser, who forced her two months ago to marry Faez Ali Thamer. Even though she was too young under Yemeni law to bring charges, she found a sympathetic ear in judge Muhammed Al-Qathi. She also asked the judge for a divorce, accusing her husband of sexual and domestic abuse.
“My father beat me and told me that I must marry this man, and if I did not, I would be raped and no law and no sheikh in this country would help me. I refused but I couldn’t stop the marriage,” Nojoud Nasser told the Yemen Times. “I asked and begged my mother, father, and aunt to help me to get divorced. They answered, ‘We can do nothing. If you want you can go to court by yourself.’ So this is what I have done,” she said.
Nasser said that she was exposed to sexual abuse and domestic violence by her husband.
“He used to do bad things to me, and I had no idea as to what a marriage is. I would run from one room to another in order to escape, but in the end he would catch me and beat me and then continued to do what he wanted. I cried so much but no one listened to me. Whenever I wanted to play in the yard he beat me and asked me to go to the bedroom with him. This lasted for two months,” added Nasser. “He was too tough with me, and whenever I asked him for mercy, he beat me and slapped me and then used me. I just want to have a respectful life and divorce him.”
After hearing the child’s story judge Muhammed Al-Qathi promptly ordered the arrest of both her father and her husband. At the ensuing trial the courtroom was packed with members of the press and human rights activists, who are using the case to highlight the need for more child protection in Yemen.
Her unemployed father, Mohammad Ali Al-Ahdal told the court he felt obliged to marry off his daughter after receiving repeated threats from the would-be husband and his entourage. He said was frightened because his oldest daughter had been kidnapped several years earlier and had been forced to marry her abductor.
Faez Ali Thameur told a judge that he married Nojoud with her consent and her parents’, and that the marriage “was consummated, but I did not beat her.”
“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.”
In issuing his ruling, the judge said he was terminating the marriage because the girl “had not reached puberty.” A provision in Yemeni law allows parents to sign marriage contracts for children younger than 15. However, the article states that a husband can only consummate the marriage when the wife reaches puberty. He annulled the marriage instead of granting a divorce, to stop the husband trying to reinstate the wedlock. He also ordered that the girl be removed from the control of the father who forced her into the wedding. In addition he ordered the girl’s family to pay $250 in compensation to Faiz Ali Thamer. There were no provisions for any punishment for the husband, Faez Ali Thamer.
Shatha Ali Nasser who represented Nojoud Mohammed Ali before the court said:
“We are grateful to the judge” she explains. “Had it been someone with strong traditional views, Nojoud could have been sent back home.”
Instead, Nojoud is now living with her maternal uncle, Shu’ee Salem Attabi’ee who said: “Nojoud is living happily with me and my eight other children. She is looking forward to going back to primary school as soon as possible.” Nojoud wants to have no further contact with her father. According to her uncle, after Muhammed Nasser, the girl’s father, lost his job as a garbage truck driver in Hajjah, he became a beggar, and soon after suffered from mental problems.
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.”