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Cablegate: From Yemen, Another Tale of Woe: 12-Year-Old Child

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHYN #1678 2581345
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 151345Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY SANAA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 2772

UNCLAS SANAA 001678

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

FOR NEA/ARP AMACDONALD, DRL JBARGHOUT AND MEPI KBARTELS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM SOCI YM
SUBJECT: FROM YEMEN, ANOTHER TALE OF WOE: 12-YEAR-OLD CHILD
BRIDE DIES IN LABOR

REF: SANAA 314

1. (SBU) A 12-year-old girl died on September 11 after three
days of painful labor in Hudeidah governorate. The girl,
Fawzia Abdullah Yousef, was married to a 24-year-old laborer
at the age of 11. Her case became public when a local human
rights worker from the Seyaj organization for child rights
came across her by chance at the local hospital in al-Zahra
district. Early marriage is prevalent across Yemen, where,
according to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, more
than one-quarter of girls are married before age 15; many,
like famous child bride Nujood Ali, are married as young as
age eight. Despite the well-known detrimental health and
social effects of early marriage, it continues to be a
widespread and legal practice across Yemen, but especially in
the impoverished and fiercely traditional northern
governorates.

2. (SBU) Seyaj employees told PolOff on September 15 that
the organization is planning to publicize the story widely
after the Eid holiday in late September and will increase
pressure on Parliament to pass a law regulating a minimum age
for marriage of at least 17 (reftel). (Note: Parliament
passed an early-marriage law in February, but before it could
go to President Saleh for signature, religiously conservative
MPs forced it back into the constitutional committee for
review. There has been no progress on the law since that
time. End Note.) Abdulkarim Ahmed al-Wazzan, General
Director of International Organizations and Reports at the
Ministry of Human Rights (MOHR), told PolOff on September 15
that the ministry was not aware of the case, but he would
personally follow up with the Minister of Human Rights to
make sure that the MOHR responded appropriately.

COMMENT
-------

3. (SBU) Fawzia's story is but the latest in a string of
painful stories of child brides in Yemen forced into marriage
and motherhood prematurely. On the whole, Yemeni society
continues to cling to the tradition of child marriage, which
conservatives defend with religious justification. Post
believes that to combat the problem of child marriage, the
ROYG and civil society must (1) pressure Parliament to
finally pass the child marriage law and set a legal basis for
ending the practice and (2) conduct widespread public
education campaigns, focusing on imams and community leaders,
about the detrimental effects of early marriage and the
religious justification for postponing childbirth until girls
have reached maturity. END COMMENT.
SECHE

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