UPDATE: Yemen: 8 year old girl awarded annullment of marriage

BBC Arabic
After taking her own case to court, eight-year-old Nojoud has been granted an annullment of a marriage she was forced into with a man in his 20s.
A Yemeni court has annulled an eight-year-old girl's marriage to a man in his 30s, after she filed for divorce. The girl, Nojoud Mohammed Ali, took a taxi to a judge’s office on her own, after running away from her husband.
Lawyer Shatha Nasser told the BBC she heard about Nojoud by chance and instantly decided to represent her. "Child brides are common in parts of Yemen, but this case received wider attention because it reached court," she said.

Yemen is one of the world's poorest countries. Although it has no legal minimum age for marriage, the wife is only allowed to live with her husband once she has reached puberty.

Nojoud's unemployed father and husband were also present at the hearing. The courtroom was packed with members of the press and human rights activists, who are using the case to highlight the need for more child protection in Yemen.

Nojoud told the court she had signed the marriage contract two-and-a-half months ago on the understanding she would stay in her parents' house until she was 18. "But a week after signing, my mother and father forced me to go and live with him."

Marriage consummated

Her former husband, Faez Ali Thameur, told the court the marriage was consummated, but he denied Nojoud's claims that he beat her.

It is understood that one person attending the hearing has decided to repay Faez the dowry he gave the Nojoud's father before marriage.

Her father, Mohammad Ali Al-Ahdal told the court he felt obliged to marry off his daughter after receiving repeated threats from the would-be husband and his entourage.

He said was frightened because his oldest daughter had been kidnapped several years earlier and had been forced to marry her abductor.

Shatha Nasser says the judge annulled the marriage instead of granting a divorce, to stop the husband trying to reinstate the wedlock.

"We are grateful to the judge" she explains. "Had it been someone with strong traditional views, Nojoud could have been sent back home."

Instead, Nojoud is now living with her maternal uncle, Shu'ee Salem Attabi'ee.

Shu’ee told the BBC that his brother-in-law had had no control over the events. "He is too frail to defend himself or his family" he explained.

"Nojoud is living happily with me and my eight other children. She is looking forward to going back to primary school as soon as possible."

By: Rachid Sekkai

16 April 2008