Sana'a, May 26: Child marriages are on the rise in Yemen with girls in the country forced to marry soon after they turn 12 years-old.
A report in NHK World details the plight of these young girls in Yemen.
Written by Yamao Kazuhiro, the piece narrates the story of Al-Anoud Shariyan who was force to marry to marry a man, 20 years her senior.
The now teenaged Al-Anoud who had been enjoying a peaceful happy life with her mother and elder sister in Sana'a had her life overturned as soon as she turned 12 when she was married off to her cousin. Telangana: Hyderabad Family Prevents Class 10 Girl From Appearing in Board Exams, Marry Her Off.
Now, 7 years later, she is recovering in hospital from a horrific attack carried out by her husband, reports Yamao.
Al-Anoud recounts that her mother who suffered from a serious illness believed that marrying her off was the only way to give her a secure future.
The teenager says that at the time she was forced to marry Abdullah Dajat, a wealthy cousin she barely knew
After her mother's death soon after she was married off and Al-Anoud says she was left with no one to rely on except for her husband, who soon after turned abusive.
The NHK World reports Al-Anoud's describing how her husband tortured her by dragged her around by the collar, chaining her to a pillar, and beating her with a stick almost every day, sometimes until she lost consciousness.
She says she hid her bruises and was afraid of speaking up against her husband. "I thought there could be an uproar if people saw the bruises," she was quoted as saying.
Two years into the marriage, Al-Anoud fled to her sister, who took her in but she says she lived in constant fear that her husband would one day come for her.
Last October, Abdullah turned up at the house and after Al-Anoud threw a liquid, which doctors suspect to be sulphuric acid, on her face. Rushed to hospital she has since then undergone multiple skin grafts but her face is badly scarred and she struggles to open her left eye, says Yamao in her report.
According to United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) marriage under the age of 18 is a violation of human rights. However, the practice is not unusual in Yemen where girls as young as 10 are given away, with their fathers often choosing the groom.
The situation has only gotten worse since the start of a civil war in 2015, which has driven families deeper into poverty. An increasing number of parents, unable to make ends meet, are offering their young daughters in return for a bride price. UNICEF estimates that more than 4 million children were forcibly married in the country last year, reported NHK World.
This seems to have led to a corresponding rise in violence against women. The Yemeni Women's Union, based in Sana'a, says it gets about 60 calls a month regarding abusive husbands. Most of these cases stem from child marriages, says Yamao.
Fawziah Yun, a supervisor with the union, is calling for international pressure to get Yemen to ban the practice. "We want the global community to help Yemen change its society to ensure women's rights are protected," she said.
Al-Anoud remains in the hospital, unsure of when she will be able to leave and resume her life. Police arrested Abdullah in February on suspicion of attempted murder, but he has so far refused to grant her a divorce.
"What happened to me is what other women also went through," Al-Anoud says. "We're not slaves. No matter how young we are, we all have our own thoughts. I want people around the world to understand the suffering of women like us."
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