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.
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. One day, Reem’s father dressed her in a niqab (the Islamic veil that covers the face, exposing only the eyes), and took her by car to Radda, 150 kilometers southeast of Sanaa, to meet her soon-to-be husband. Against Reem’s will, a quick religious marriage ensued. 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). Reem’s mother escorted her to court in an attempt to get a divorce. She was finally granted a divorce in 2010.
He wanted to sleep with me by force.
They [her husband and in-laws] used to beat me. I took a mousse [razor] and cut my wrists. I bled and became weak, and then fell to the floor.
Narrative provided by Human Rights Watch in their report “How Come You Allow Little Girls to Get Married?”: Child Marriage in Yemen