Yemen: Law to stamp out tourist marriages

Any foreign male who wishes to marry a Yemeni woman must have an acceptance of marriage from the authority of his country.
He must also have a certificate of sound morality and good health, and must deposit YR 500,000 in the bank as an insurance of his commitment to his Yemeni wife.
These are the conditions that Yemen has set to help put an end to so-called “tourist marriages” that have become ever more popular in Yemen and annually increase over the period of the summer vacation.

“The foreigner must be a Muslim, have legal residence in Yemen and have no other wife,” general manager of legal affairs in the interior ministry, Said Al-Khameree, told Al-Thawra daily newspaper last Sunday.

“The law states that marriage between a foreigner and a Yemeni women is illegal unless they get permission from the minister,” he added.

The law is in response to a campaign by Ibb university last June that revealed the dangers of tourist marriages to the girl in question, her family and society as a whole.

Members of government, lawyers, sociologists, women's rights activists and sheikhs recommended a new law governing the marriage of Yemeni women to foreigners.

On June 18, Parliament asked the Committee of Evaluation of Islamic Law (sharia) and the Committee of Justice and Endowment to produce a report on the issue.

Galeb Al-Gershio, head of the justice and endowment committee said that the report would be put before Parliament for discussion. He said that despite the unfortunate outcomes of many such marriages, they were legal all the same.

A study by Ibb University and the Ministry of Interior showed that 657 Yemeni women were given permits to marry foreigners last year, but the foreigners were not required to bring any papers from the embassies of their countries to prove their credentials. The study revealed that 65% of the victims of such marriages were girls below the age of 24.

Every year men from neighboring gulf countries flock to Yemen to spend their holidays and marry a poor, young girl. Despite frequently considerable age differences, the foreigner manages to persuade his bride-to-be’s family by promising work for other members of the family in his country.

After few weeks, the groom returns to his home country and his wife and children, who may be no older than the girl he married in Yemen.

A thousand stories exist of the grooms stealing their young wife’s gold and marriage documents, and then disappearing. Analysts say that many parents accept the offer of marriage due to the state of poverty in which they find themselves. They believe that the marriage will change their lives for the better, but instead they are left with an emotionally scarred young daughter.

The girl may find it difficult to remarry again through fear of a repeat of the awful experience of being married and divorced in the course of only a few weeks, or because of society’s unforgiving and heartless view of divorced women.

The state of the family may get even worse should the daughter bear fatherless children.

Last year approximately 77 children were given Yemeni nationality after the government issued an order to permit Yemeni status to children born to Yemeni mothers whose foreign fathers had abandoned them for more than a year.

As the summer holiday in Yemen approaches it’s final week, so too does the seasonal influx of wealthy, aged men from neighboring states.

Originally published on 5 September 2005 in the Yemen Observer