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CNN has a sobering but must-read piece this morning on the sickening issue of child-brides in Yemen:
Sana’a, Yemen (CNN) — Reem al Numeri is 14-years-old and recently divorced. She was 11 when she says her father forced her to marry a cousin more than twice her age.
Reem says she has been stigmatized by her divorce and now lives the life of an outcast. Without a husband or father to support her, she cannot attend school.
Her story has echoes of Nujood Ali — the Yemeni girl whose story sparked an international outrage that many thought would force change in the country.
But a bill to outlaw child marriages got blocked and the practice continues. On Saturday, Yemen’s parliament will look again at child marriage.
Reem’s desperate pleas to stay a child fell on deaf ears as her father forced her to marry a 32-year-old cousin. “He said you need to go into the room where the judge is and tell him you agree to the marriage,” Reem said. “I said I won’t go in there – he took out his dagger and said he’d cut me in half if I didn’t go in there and agree.”
For Reem, the terror and the trauma were just beginning. She said she was told to sleep with her husband, but refused. She locked herself in a bedroom every night to ensure her safety but, according to Reem, he managed to sneak in and raped her.
Reem said members of her family first ordered her to submit, then expected her to celebrate. “They chose not to buy me any bridal dresses until they were sure I’d had sex with him because they didn’t want their money to go to waste,” she said. “Once they were sure, they bought me the bridal clothes and threw me a party. After that, I burned the white bridal dress I was given and then I used a razor to try to kill myself.” Reem’s father and ex-husband did not return CNN’s calls.
Two years ago, 10-year-old Nujood Ali shocked the world when she took herself to court in Yemen’s capital city of Sana’a and asked a judge for a divorce.
After a well publicized trial, she was granted one — and became a heroine to those trying to shine a spotlight on the issue of child brides in Yemen, where more than half of all young girls are married before age 18, mostly to older men.
In 2009, Yemen’s parliament passed legislation raising the minimum age of marriage to 17. But conservative parliamentarians argued the bill violated Sharia, or Islamic law, which does not stipulate a minimum age of marriage.
And because of a parliamentary maneuver the bill was never signed into law.
More than 100 leading religious clerics called the attempt to restrict the age of marriage “un-Islamic”.
Reem’s attorney, Shada Nasser, is one of Yemen’s most well known advocates for children’s rights.
Nasser has represented several child brides seeking divorce, including Ali. She doesn’t even think the practice should be called marriage. “I think it is rape,” she said.
But Nasser also has hope that Reem’s generation will help build a new Yemen, free of child marriages.
“Who can build this Yemen?” asked Nasser. “Me? No – all these small girls — they must build Yemen. But all these girls need a good law – a family law.” Nasser begs the clerics standing in the way: “I ask them to give these girls mercy.”
A prominent Yemeni human rights activist, Amal Albasha, is also outraged the practice continues. Her organization, Sisters Arab Forum, tries to intervene on behalf of child brides, to stop the marriages from taking place. Albasha added that nothing will change until people in Yemen try to fully understand the horror a child bride goes through.
“You know, just two days ago, a 9-year-old girl got married in Taiz.” she said. “Just think about the pain, the fear — just think about a 9-year-old with a 50-year-old in a closed room,” said Albasha. “The experience remains until the day of death.”
These stories are both heartbreaking and infuriating – but to see these young girls fighting back against Sharia law is also inspiring. We can fight in the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan until the end of time, killing and capturing the bad guys day and night. But until there is a cultural change in Islamofascistic countries like Yemen and, ultimately, a rejection of Islam altogether, the brutality against and subjugation of Muslim women will continue. I’ve noted before that it may very well be Muslim women who are the key to this cultural shift as they are the ones who suffer the most from laws based on the Koran and, along with their children, stand to gain the most from reversing the centuries old cycle of “tolerated abuse” courtesy of Islamic law.
My personal belief is that Muslim women who are also Islamic have the most to gain by abandoning Islam altogether (as Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Dr. Wafa Sultan have done) rather than trying to simply “reform” it – because you can’t reform a religion whose “holy book” enshrines the enslavement of women and teaches believers to use whatever means necessary to make “infidels” submit – and if they don’t submit to Islam, the Koran advocates their murder.
That said, whether or not these child brides end up rejecting Islam later in life, I wish them all the success in the world in getting their respective countries to overturn their child bride laws while at the same time raising the minumum age for marriage. Children should be allowed to be children – to grow and play, be happy and carefree, and they should be allowed to grow into teenagers who are given the opportunity to experience life as a those in free countries like America do. They should not be forced into marriage and sex at any age. Sex and marriage should be a choice, not an obligation, not a demand, not a duty and, of course, it should be with someone you love and who loves you, not with someone 40 years older than you who you’ve been “promised to” since birth.
God be with them.