Utne Blogs > Politics

Keeping Girls from Becoming Wives

 by Lisa Gulya


Tags: International, women's rights, marriage,

Indian Girl

Expectations about nuptial readiness differ around the world. In the United States, it might seem hurried to marry before college graduation, but “early marriage” elsewhere can mean pushing pre-teen or teen girls toward matrimony, even when it’s illegal. Girls can avoid early marriage, reports humanitarian organization CARE International in the spring 2008 issue of its magazine I Am Powerful (article not available online), with the proper help.

A recent case in point comes from India, where a grandfather demanded his 15-year-old granddaughter marry, despite Indian law setting the age of consent at 18. A CARE-trained volunteer health worker helped the girl take her case to the village council. Not only did the council decide in the girl’s favor, it formed a committee on early marriage to dissuade families from arranging early marriages for their adolescent daughters. 

In Yemen, an 8-year-old girl forced to marry a 30-year-old man sought help from the courts, the Yemen Times reported in April. While Yemeni law dictates that girls and boys must be 15 before they can marry, parents are allowed to make a contract on behalf of younger children. “But the husband cannot be intimate with her until she is ready or mature,” says a Yemen Supreme Court lawyer. After the girl complained of her husband’s physical and sexual abuse, her father told her she would have to get a divorce herself if she wanted one. She petitioned for divorce, and the judge ordered the arrest of her husband and father.

The BBC reports that a judge annulled the girl's marriage. "Nojoud is living happily with me and my eight other children," her uncle told the British broadcaster. "She is looking forward to going back to primary school as soon as possible." 

 (Thanks, Minnesota Women’s Press.)

 Image by Steve Weaver, licensed under Creative Commons.