There are an estimated 85,000 people living in modern slavery in Yemen (GSI 2018). Young girls are subjected to child forced marriage, with UNICEF estimating 32% of girls being married before the age of 18. There is currently no legal age of marriage in Yemen and poverty, the practice of dowry and strict social and religious customs are drivers of child marriage in the country. With the onset of conflict within the country, estimates suggest that child marriage is on the rise.
Najla did not know exactly how old she is, but she said that she was married soon after completing her second year in secondary school, which would have made her about 15 or 16 at the time of her marriage. She has been married for seven years and has two children who were likely born before she was 18 years old. She explained how she was denied medical treatment by her in-laws.
I was pregnant with the second child when my firstborn was only five months old. For five days, I bled severely, and I thought it was just my period. My mother-in-law knew what was happening to me, but she wouldn’t tell me anything. They [my-in-laws] wouldn’t let me go to the hospital and wouldn’t tell my husband what was going on with me. When I became very dizzy, they finally took me to the hospital, but at the hospital they didn’t stop the bleeding and didn’t give me any treatment. I had to lie on my back for six months during my [second] pregnancy and I needed 500 cc of blood. The doctor told me it’s because I married early.
Narrative provided by Human Rights Watch in their report “How Come You Allow Little Girls to Get Married?”: Child Marriage in Yemen