An 8-year-old Yemeni girl who was married to a man five times her age died on her wedding night after sustaining internal injuries following intercourse with her husband, reports said.
The girl, identified only as Rawan, was married off to a 40-year-old man late last week in an arranged marriage.
“On the wedding night and after intercourse, she suffered from bleeding and uterine rupture, which caused her death," Arwa Othman, a leading rights campaigner, told Reuters. "They took her to a clinic, but the medics couldn't save her life."
The girl lived in a tribal area of Hardh that borders Saudi Arabia, and although there has been a call to arrest her husband, Othman added that no action has been taken against him or the girl’s family.
Child marriage is prevalent in Yemen and the seriousness of the issue was noted by the international media in 2008 after Nujood Ali, who was 9 years old at the time, approached a court seeking to end her 2-month-old marriage with a man in his 30s.
Ali was granted a divorce, and her account of being a child bride is recounted in the book “I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced.”
According to reports, a number of poor families in Yemen marry off their girls at a very young age to save the cost of bringing them up. Human Rights Watch reports that 14 percent of girls in Yemen are married off before they reach the age of 15, and 52 percent before they are 18.
“Thousands of Yemeni girls have their childhood stolen and their futures destroyed because they are forced to marry too young,” Liesl Gerntholtz, women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement on the organization’s website. “The Yemeni government should end this abusive practice.”
Although the country passed a law in 2009 setting 17 as the legal age for girls to marry, it was later revoked after a group of conservative lawmakers stated that it went against Islamic teachings.