An eight-year-old Yemeni girl has died of internal bleeding on her wedding night after marrying a man five times her age, a social activist and two local residents said, in a case that has caused an outcry in the media and revived debate about child brides. Arwa Othman, head of Yemen's House of Folklore and a leading rights campaigner, said the girl, identified only as Rawan, was married to a year-old late last week in the town of Meedi in Hajjah province, north-western Yemen. A security official in the provincial town of Haradh denied any such incident had taken place. He did not want to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the press. But two Meedi residents contacted by Reuters confirmed the incident and said tribal chiefs had tried to cover up the incident when the news broke, warning a local journalist against covering the story. Many poor families in Yemen marry off young daughters to save on the costs of bringing up a child and earn extra money from the dowry given to the girl. A UN report released in January revealed the extent of the country's poverty, saying that Human Rights Watch HRW urged Yemen in December to ban marriages of girls under 18, warning it deprived child brides of education and harmed their health.
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Chat with us in Facebook Messenger. Find out what's happening in the world as it unfolds. Story highlights The girl was reportedly married off to a year-old man "It's time to end this practice," minister says Police call the report "baseless" In Yemen, the issue of child marriage is complicated. Yemen's human rights minister wants child marriage outlawed after an 8-year-old girl reportedly died of internal injuries that she suffered on her wedding night. When reports emerged last week that a girl named Rawan, from the northern Yemeni town of Haradh, died a few days after being married off to a year-old man, Yemenis were horrified. International outrage quickly grew, as the alleged incident highlighted once again the extremely controversial issue of child marriage in Yemen -- a country where the practice is still legal. Residents of Haradh told local media outlets that Rawan's cause of death was internal bleeding, believed to be the result of sexual intercourse that tore her uterus and other organs. Amidst the numerous claims and counterclaims, Hooria Mashhour, Yemen's human rights minister, has declared enough is enough — telling CNN that the growing anger over Rawan's case has presented Yemen with an opportunity to finally do the right thing. More Videos Covering Yemen
Fourteen-year-old Reem, from Sanaa, was 11 years old when her father married her to her cousin, a man almost 21 years her senior. Three days after she was married, her husband raped her. Reem attempted suicide by cutting her wrists with a razor. Her husband took her back to her father in Sanaa, and Reem then ran away to her mother her parents are divorced. The world took notice of these gender-related abuses when Tawakkol Karman, a Yemeni woman activist, was in October named a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, is beset by high unemployment, widespread corruption and rampant human rights abuses. These abuses include child marriages, which are widespread. A study by Sanaa University noted that, in some rural areas, girls as young as eight are married.
A sk Noora Al Shami about her wedding day and she remembers the childish delight of an year-old girl playing at being an adult. She was thrilled at friends and family gathering for a three-day party in the Yemeni port city of Al Hudaydah, miles west of the capital city of Sana'a. There were traditional singers and dancers, with one musician performing love songs to the backing of a traditional oud, a pear-shaped stringed instrument. Food including spiced lamb and rice was plentiful, and the little girl wore "three really beautiful dresses" — two green and one white — for each day of the celebrations. The assailant was Mohammed Al Ahdam, a distant cousin who was well into his 30s when he married Noora in , just after her 11th birthday.