Child Marriages in Yemen

Child Marriages in Yemen



Child Marriages in Yemen


            The religious and cultural traditions that characterize Yemen have led to the propagation of a patriarchal society where the rights of women are continually undermined. As the male proponents of society are the sole beneficiaries of the skewed system, they strive to maintain the status quo. Towards this end, they utilize child marriages as a tool of female subjugation. The repercussions of child marriages are far-reaching and enduring. They affect the child’s development stunting their intellectual, physical, and social growth as well as causing them psychological duress. These effects persist throughout a woman’s life with no sympathetic persons around to alleviate their plight. The teenage wives and subsequently mothers become beasts of burden limited to the confines of the homestead to perform their spousal mandates. The children of the poor are usually the ones subjugated to early marriages. Child marriages impede societal progress that will benefit everyone regardless of gender. Child marriage affects the development of Yemeni children leading to inequality and propagating the ideals of a patriarchal society.

Arguments against Child Marriages

            Early marriages that punctuate Yemen’s society act as an impediment to intellectual development. Upon being forced into the marriage, the children forego opportunities for educational advancement to perform household duties. Gorney (2011) argues that when the victims of the child marriages drop out of the educational institution, their intellectual development is halted. Even when they are allowed to go to school majority are overwhelmed by the attempt to balance between school life and homemaker mandates. As such, they opt out of the former to attend to the requirements that are reinforced by Yemen’s cultural and religious values. In Yemen, the family takes precedence over any other institution such as education. As such, the child is socialized to perceive that they are privileged to be given spousal responsibilities early in life. Given their stunted intellectual capabilities, the victims are gullible thus believe these lies. They subsequently accept their designated role of servitude with grace and humility. The children that deviate from these norms are duly sanctioned.

            Early marriages usually expedite the maturity of the children as they are burdened with responsibilities beyond their years. Robbed of their childhood and isolated from their peers, the scope of their socialization process is narrowed further limiting their exposure. Socialization and intellectual growth run parallel to holistic child development. Barakat and Basten (2004) posit that child marriages deny the victim access to the normal environment that school provides insulated from gender roles and spousal duties, therefore, compromising the pace of their intellectual growth. The exposure of the teenage wives to marital realities disrupts the normal pace of intellectual development. These forced marriages remove the safeguards that the school environment provides for the child. The children are denied the opportunity to play with their peers developing their creative potentialities. Children’s games have an important part in broadening a child’s imagination, an aspect of intellectual development.

            The high level of illiteracy among women in the Yemen society is attributed to early marriages. The lack of solid educational foundation frustrates the child’s attempts to acquire knowledge upon reaching maturity (UNICEF, 2005). The victim’s ignorance of the concepts of simple arithmetic and reading persist throughout their lifetime. The intellectual handicap limits their problem-solving capabilities consequently their overall impact on society. The repercussions transcend the female segment as the illiterate women are tasked with imparting their children regardless of the gender from their shallow well of knowledge. Statistical evidence validates the assertion that illiteracy levels in the Middle East are directly proportional to the rates of teenage marriages. The lack of education diminishes the children’s chances of a healthy psychological development.

            Child marriages lead to psychological complications among the young victims. With the prospects of normal development absent, the child develops dysfunctional psychological behavior to cope with their equally irregular childhood ultimately leading to depression. It has been scientifically proven that the victims of child marriages are more prone to mental conditions such as anxiety, stress, and depression. Continuous pressure because of exposure to marital conflicts and their accompanying problems increase the susceptibility of these children to mental illnesses (Nour, 2009). The psychological conditions may remain latent during the victims’ childhood only to manifest in their adulthood. Prolonged exposure to a stressful marriage given their subjugated states makes fear and anxiety a constant feature in the child life. The psychological conditions tend to lower the individual’s immunity leaving them vulnerable. It follows that Polio in unvaccinated children has been linked to situational depression, a consequence of traumatic experiences (Anderson, 2015). As a defense mechanism against the spectrum of abuses endured within the marital institution, sexual, emotional, and physical, the children develop personality disorders. These victims of abuse leverage split personalities to cope with their traumatic realities. Furthermore, their desensitization to physical abuse may lead to psychopathic tendencies (Kopelman, 2013). The children deflect the violence to less dangerous objects such as their children. The suppressed anger may lead to spontaneous outbursts or sprouts of violence against their defilers with fatal results.

            Teenage marriages have dire effects on the physical health of its victims. Given the differential age between the spouses, there is a power distance between the wife and the husband. Often with the latter perceiving the other as a child that should timidly comply with his directives, failure to which they are severely punished. The husband, who at times is the peer of the teenagers’ parents, may resort to disciplining their spouse towards ensuring obedience and deterring future instances of the insubordination. Ouis (2009) claims that these young recipients of the violent acts are often left with lasting physical deformities. As the violence escalates, the victims’ physical health continues to deteriorate. Punishments meted out on the lesser spouse in these child marriages are not limited to violence. Some are denied food for extended durations leading to starvation. The malnourished child becomes susceptible to diseases resulting from these nutritional deficiencies such as marasmus and kwashiorkor. In the worst-case scenario, the children die at the hands of their abusers. As the child’s time is occupied with performing spousal roles, the children are denied the opportunity to play and engage in sports thus are denied their accompanying benefits (Butt & Naveed, 2010). For instance, resistance training helps strengthen bones in children by increasing the mineral concentration. The benefits only accrue to children during the adolescence period. This helps them to retain their stamina even in their old age. After a child reaches adulthood, the exercises and games only function to confound the substantial gains acquired during adolescence. As the children are themselves responsible for another child, they are forced to relinquish their childhood privileges to embrace adult responsibilities, to their physical detriment. Their fragile bones lead to complications in their sunset years.

Counter Arguments

            Proponents of child marriages have argued that it reduces the chances of children outside wedlock thus assuring a father from their children. Apart from reducing the opportunities for immorality, child marriages limit the possibilities of rape as a married woman is respected more even by social deviants (Nour, 2009). In light of the above benefits, the chances of the young spouse contracting sexually transmitted diseases are minimal. Early marriage helps to propagate family values and expedite the development of girls into mature women. What they may lack in formal education they compensate with the wisdom that comes with experience. Child marriages are essential in reinforcing social ties in the community increasing social stability. Similarly, the child is often elevated from a life of poverty to one of relative prosperity where they can accord their children luxuries they were denied. The child marriages in Yemen are in line religious attitudes facilitated by Sharia law that reiterate the essence of family.


            Conjugal rape is a constant feature in child marriages. It is even worse off than its counterpart outside the marriage confines as it is continuous and one has to live with the perpetrator. As Yemen’s society perceives it as a justified right, there are no avenues to find recourse in the woman is bold enough to speak up (Nour, 2009). They are often silenced and given to their husbands to discipline them further. The violent nature of the sexual encounters within child marriages has serious health consequences for the victim. Given that the enforcement of the social sanctions on men who engage in sex out of wedlock is low in a patriarchic society. The risk of sexually transmitted diseases in child marriages persists. Furthermore, given the husbands’ lack of respect for their young spouses they accountability remains elusive. The lack of education may limit their knowledge on how to protect themselves from the sexually transmitted diseases. Hiding under Sharia law to continue the practice of child marriages is wrong. Though Sharia law restricts marriage of girls before reaching puberty owing to their physical and psychological immaturity, it does not endorse matrimony immediately after the fact.


            Yemen is a retrogressive society where child marriages are commonplace shielded by the Sharia law. The child marriages reduce the physical and mental well-being of the victims. The stress accompanying marital life is often too much for the teenagers to bear. This induces psychological conditions like anxiety that undermines their bodies’ ability to defend itself from diseases. The childhood opportunities that the children relinquish to fulfill their spousal roles have enduring consequences on the victim as it affects her well into old age. The lack of schooling prevents the mother’s comprehension of life’s concepts later. Apart from the above educational constraint, the lack of opportunities to play impedes creative expression and limit opportunities for exercises. The perception that people who engage in early marriages espouse family values is wrong, as no parent would like their children to endure the treatments these children undergo. The uneven relationship in child marriages is meant to prevent the child from intellectually advancing thus effectively challenging the husband for ill-treatment. Similarly, the weakened bodies will make them ease prey. The way to reduce child marriages to educate the society of its effects on the children through collaborating with respected institutions like mosques. Nonetheless, the majority of these males in Yemen are educated thus are conscious of the consequences. Therefore, corresponding sanctions should be attached to mitigate the continuation of the practice.


Anderson, E. (2015). Nujood Ali and the Fight against Child Marriage. Booklist, (19-20). 90.

Barakat, B., & Basten, S. (2014). Modeling the constraints on consanguineous marriage when fertility declines. Demographic Research, 30, 277.

Butt, K. M., & Naveed, S. (2015). Causes and Consequences of Child Marriages in South Asia. South Asian Studies (1026-678X), 30(2), 161-175.

Gorney, C. (2011). Too young to wed: The secret world of child brides. National Geographic, 219(6), 78-99.

Kopelman, L. M. (2016). The Forced Marriage of Minors: A Neglected Form of Child Abuse. Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 44173.

Nour, N. M. (2009). Child marriage: a silent health and human rights issue. Rev Obstet Gynecol, 2(1), 51-56.

Ouis, P. (2009). Honourable Traditions? Honor violence, early marriage, and sexual abuse of teenage girls in Lebanon, the occupied Palestinian territories, and Yemen. The International Journal of Children’s Rights, 17(3), 445-474.

UNICEF. (2005). Early marriage a harmful traditional practice a statistical exploration 2005. Unicef

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