>Yemeni child bride dies of internal bleeding

>This poor girl’s husband should have the book thrown at him after what he did to this child.

A 13-year-old Yemeni child bride who bled to death shortly after marriage was tied down and forced to have sex by her husband, according to interviews with the child’s mother, police and medical reports.

The girl’s mother, Nijma Ahmed, 50, told the Associated Press that before her daughter lost consciousness, she said that her husband had tied her up and forced himself on her. “She looked like she was butchered,” she said about her daughter’s injuries.

Elham Assi, 13, bled to death hours after she spoke to her mother and just days after she was married to a 23-year-old man. She died on April 2 in the deeply poor Yemeni village of Shueba, some 200 kilometers northwest of the capital. Her husband, Abed al-Hikmi, is in police custody.

The article goes on to state that a quarter of all females in Yemen marries before the age of 15 and traditional families prefer young brides because they are seen as more “obedient and are expected to have more children.” No government officials have commented on the case (no surprise there) and legislation to ban child brides have been stalled by the country’s religious leaders (again, no surprise there).

More from the AP: 

The girl — one of eight siblings — was pushed into marriage after an agreement between her brother and her future-husband to marry each other’s sisters to avoid having to pay expensive bride-prices — a common arrangement in Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East. According to police notes from the interrogation of the husband, he was upset because he could not consummate their relationship and felt under pressure to prove his manhood. Assi’s mother said she also tried to persuade her daughter to have sex with her husband so as not to shame the family.

Al-Hikmi took his young bride to a nearby medical clinic, asking a doctor there to administer her tranquilizers so she would not resist his advances. The clinic said it refused. Al-Hikmi then obtained performance enhancing pills, according to the police interrogation, and that night completed the act while she screamed.

The next day, he returned to the same medical clinic carrying Assi because she could not walk.

“I told him not to go near her for at least ten days,” said Dr. Fathiya Haidar. She said Assi’s vaginal canal was ripped. A forensic report obtained by the AP showed that Assi’s injuries were much more extensive, including extensive tearing around the vagina and rectum, suggesting that there might have been additional intercourse after the clinic visit. Her mother said she visited Assi later that day, where she found her daughter fading in and out of consciousness.

“She whispered in my ear that he had tied her up and had sex with her violently,” she said. “I said to her husband, what have you done, you criminal?”

She said al-Hikmi told her that the young bride was just possessed by spirits and said he would take her to a folk healer to cast them out. Hours later, Assi was dead.

“She asked me to stay beside her,” her mother said.

 This story first repulsed me when I read it, but it also ignited a sense of disgust at the tradition of child brides. While it’s hard to estimate, the United Nations Children’s Fund estimates that in developing countries, more than 60 million women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before the age of 18 (based on surveys taken between 1987 to 2006). Other facts from UNICEF:

  • In countries like Bangladesh, Central African Republic, Chad, Guinea, Mali, and Niger more than 60 per cent of women entered into marriage or into a union before their eighteenth birthdays (MICS, DHS, and other national surveys, 1987-2006).

  • Girls living in the poorest 20 per cent of households are more likely to get married at an early age than those living in the wealthiest 20 per cent. In Peru 45 per cent of women were married by age 18 among the poorest 20 per cent, compared to 5 per cent among the richest 20 per cent (UNICEF estimates based on DHS 2000).
  • Women with primary education are significantly less likely to be married/in union as children than those who received no education. In Zimbabwe, 48 per cent of women who had attended primary school had been married by the age of 18, compared to 87 per cent of those who had not attended school (UNICEF estimates based on DHS 1999).

Along with abuse, UNICEF notes, these women who are married off tend to quit schooling and suffer from various health-related complications, such as premature pregnancies, higher infant mortality rates and, sometimes, sexually transmitted diseases.

Not only does child marriage puts young girls and women at risk for abuse and health complications, it robs them of a chance of living happy, productive lives. Sure, there are those who will hide behind moral/cultural relativism and claim this is part of their culture and westerners should butt out. I take offense to that; I take offense with those who hide behind the culture argument to keep one group of people subservient and in bondage at the benefit of another.

It’s not relativism when you are practicing rituals or traditions that are designed to keep women and children “in check” with their place in society. It’s called pure terrorism–and no culture can mask that.