UPDATE: Yemen: Minimum age for marriage set at 17
Nojood, 10, Arwa, 9, and Reem, 13, are three girls who went through traumatizing ordeals after being forced into marriage by their families. The three girls’ stories have been an issue of debate in social sessions, conferences and the media. But most importantly the matter was discussed in Parliament, where members have finally approved setting the minimum age for marriage for both boys and girls at 17 years old.
The new law stipulates:
“No child under seventeen years of age is to be married, unless the marriage is seen in the best interest of the child by the judge. The girl’s guardian who violates this law will be penalized. The judge conducting the marriage has to present the marriage document within one month of the marriage at most to the concerned body and the marriage contract must include related documents such as birth certificate, dowry and identity cards. The guardian of either the wife or husband will be financially penalized if they do not register the marriage certificate within the mentioned period. No marriage is to be carried out at any age without the consent of the woman.”
“It is a grand achievement for both women and men in Yemen,” said Hooria Mashour,deputy chairperson of the Women National Committee.
She excitedly agreed that such legislation will help promote better education and health of the citizen and will contribute to the development of the country as a whole.
“I am grateful to all the courageous people who fight for women’s rights, and I am especially thankful to the men in the parliament that helped pass this law,” she added.
Shaqi Al-Qadhi, Member of Parliament (MP) and strong advocate for women’s rights said that the law amendments is only the beginning.
“Now we need civil society organizations, lawyer syndicates and anyone interested in women’s development to propose procedural steps and a detailed system for implementing this law,” he said.
MP Dr. Abdulbari Al-Doghaish said that there has been a change in the mentality of many MPs and people in general towards the issues of women.
Al-Qadhi agrees with this notion, “I believe that now we can say that Yemeni society understands that women’s rights are a case of humanity and not an imported concept from the West.”
This law comes a few weeks before the fourth annual women’s conference which is organized by the Women National Committee.
“This is the best gift Parliament can give to women on their national day,” says Mashour.
More reasons to celebrate
The law to define the minimum age for marriage is not the only reason for Yemeni women to celebrate.
The parliament passed this amendment among a set of legislations concerning women and children in two laws, civil status law number 14 for the year 2002 and civil status law number 20 for the year 1992.
The amendments include facilitations of pre-marital medical checks regarding genetic faults, dangerous diseases or health risks.
Amendments also conditioned polygamy to the practical ability of a husband being fair and able to support both families. Fairness is included in all aspects, such as time spent with each wife, housing and logistics. The first wife also has to be legally notified of his intention of marrying another to allow them to make future decisions.
Amendments included technicalities in the marriage procedure and contracts which clarify the issue of consent among other issues.
Divorced women also benefit from the new amendments as the law today clearly stipulates women’s right to alimony for her children even if the divorce is permanent.
Custody of children is exclusively granted to the mother for the first twelve years of the children’s life whether boys or girls, unless the judge sees that the best interest of the child lies elsewhere.
A divorced mother with children has the right to a suitable residence to be provided for by the father of the child.
The new amendments also recognizes the mother as the sole guardian of orphaned children if is seen fit to shoulder this responsibility by a judge.
Once orphaned children reach puberty, a judge can test their maturity and entrust their inheritance to them if he considers them responsible enough.
11 February 2009
By: Nadia Al-Sakkaf