The Yemeni Embassy in Washington, DC is responding to media coverage of the death of a 12-year-old child bride last week. Fawziya Abdullah Youssef died in a hospital of the Hodeida province of Yemen after struggling to give birth for three days. Her child was stillborn. The story made headlines on several news outlets and was reported here on Tuesday.
In a statement sent to the Feminist Newswire and other news outlets, embassy spokesperson Mohammed Albasha highlighted a bill passed by the legislature in February, but still not ratified, that raises the minimum age of marriage to 17. “Unfortunately, prior to the ratification of the amendments by the Honorable President Ali Abdullah Saleh, members of the conservative block in the Parliament have rescinded the proposed amendments to allow for further deliberations. It is anticipated that the matter will be finalized in the near future, and it is deemed an important priority of the government,” Albasha writes. According to CNN, conservative leaders argue that the bill violates Islamic law, which does not specify a minimum age for marriage.
Albasha also notes “there have been recent efforts from the Ministry of Health in cooperation with World Bank to also establish emergency labor clinics in rural villages with the aim of reducing infant and maternity mortality.”
Youssef was 11 years old when her father married her to a 24-year-old man, according to Seyaj, the Yemeni children’s rights organization that first reported her death. Child marriage is a common practice in Yemen, where an estimated 50 percent of young women are married before age 18, reports ABC News. Yemen is the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula, and child marriage is often arranged so that the bride’s family can receive a dowry payment.