04/16/2008, 00.00
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Yemeni girl forced to marry at the age of 8 has obtained a divorce

But the law that permits adults to marry minors will not be changed. A study has highlighted how marriage with young girls is an extremely widespread practice. The little Nojud now wants to return to school; she was in second grade.

Sana (AsiaNews) - The Yemeni law on marriage will not be changed, in spite of the case of the eight-year-old girl who, forced to marry a man of 30, by asking for - and obtaining - a divorce has brought to light a practise that is widespread in the extremely poor country.  The parliamentary jurisprudence committee has, in fact, rejected a request from the Women’s National Committee that was supported by 61 parliamentarians, asking that the minimum age for marriage be set at 18, for both men and women.

The case of Nojud Mohammed Ali came to light on April 2 - in the pages of the Yemen Times - when the little girl presented herself, alone, before judge Muhammed Al-Qadhi in a court in the capital, to ask for divorce from her husband, Faez Ali Thameur, accusing him of beating and raping her.  The law, in fact, allows marriage with minors, but requires waiting for "maturity" to have sexual relations.  But the law itself does not provide any sanctions against those who do not respect it.  Thus, in the country, the practise of marriages with young girls is extremely widespread: a study conducted in 2006 by a centre for women's development revealed that childhood marriage affects 52.1% of girls, for whom the average age of marriage varies from a little more than 10 years to almost 15.  The age for men is around 21.

As for Nojud, her husband, who was arrested on charges of violence, had refused to grant a divorce, defending himself by saying that he had obtained the girl from her parents.  The girl's father, also jailed by the judge, explained that he had allowed the girl to be married because of the family's poor economic conditions.  "They made me sign a contract", Nojud recounted, "telling me that I would remain at home until I was 18 years old, but one week later my parents brought me to my husband".

After the trial, the now ex-husband and the father - who says he is sorry - were released from prison.  As for the girl, she has expressed the desire to return to school - she was in second grade - and to have a teddy bear to play with.

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