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Three days after she was married, her husband raped her. Reem attempted suicide by cutting her wrists with a razor. Her husband took her back to her father in Sanaa, and Reem then ran away to her mother her parents are divorced. The world took notice of these gender-related abuses when Tawakkol Karman, a Yemeni woman activist, was in October named a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, is beset by high unemployment, widespread corruption and rampant human rights abuses.
These abuses include child marriages, which are widespread. A study by Sanaa University noted that, in some rural areas, girls as young as eight are married. Yemen currently has no minimum age for marriage. Boys or girls can be married at any age, but in practice it is girls who are most often married young, often to much older men.
The only protection offered under article 15 of the Personal Status Law is the prohibition on sexual intercourse until girls reach puberty. However, as in the case of Reem and others documented by Human Rights Watch illustrates this prohibition in fact does not guarantee protection. Sometimes girls may be forced into sex and subjected to marital rape before puberty. The consequences of child marriage can be devastating and long lasting.
Research on child marriage conducted by experts and organizations show that most girls who marry young are removed from school, cutting short the education and skills needed to provide for themselves and their families. Many become pregnant and have children soon after marriage.
As girls with little education and power in their marriage, they have little chance of controlling how many children they have, or when they have them.