A Yemeni child bride died on Friday from severe bleeding during childbirth. Twelve-year-old Fawziya Abdullah Youssef died while giving birth to a stillborn in a hospital of the Hodeida province of Yemen, reported the Associated Press.
Youssef was 11 years old when her father married her to a 24-year-old man, reports Siyaj, a Yemeni children’s rights organization. Siyaj’s chairman, Ahmed al-Quraishi, was visiting the Hodeida hospital to investigate the cases of other children when he learned of Youssef’s death. He told the Associated Press, “This is one of many cases that exist in Yemen. The reason behind it is the lack of education and awareness, forcing many girls into marriage in this very early age,” al-Quraishi stated.
Child marriage is a common practice in Yemen, where an estimated 50 percent of young women are married before age 18, according to ABC News. Yemen is the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula, and child marriage is often arranged so the bride’s family can receive a dowry payment. The nation’s parliament passed a law establishing the minimum age for marriage at 17 in February, but ABC News reports that conservative lawmakers are blocking enactment of the law.
In a statement, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said, “Child marriages violate the rights of children in the most deplorable way. The younger the girl is when she becomes pregnant, the greater the health risks for her and her baby. Girls who give birth before the age of 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s. Child marriage denies girls of their childhood, deprives them of an education and robs them of their innocence. Tragedies like these underscore the urgent need to better protect the rights of women and children, particularly girls.”
Child marriage remains a common practice in rural and impoverished areas in many countries, with 100 million girls expected to marry in the next ten years, according to the United Nations Population Fund. In June the US House of Representatives passed the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009, which calls on the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to address child marriage in developing countries. A similar measure introduced in the Senate has not passed.