From behind her chador, Yemeni teenager Laila talked to UNICEF about how she was forced to get married, at the age of 13, to a man who was 20 years older than her. A 6th grade student, she had just returned home from school one day when the news was broken to her by her father, Nasser, that she was to be married within two weeks.
“I was a child dreaming of everything good,” recounts Laila in her interview. She remembers being beaten by both her mother and father whenever she refused to marry.
”I started screaming, and my mother rushed out to grab me while my father angrily threatened to beat, or even kill, me, if I refused.”
Laila became sick at the time of her marriage, and she was admitted to a hospital, where she stayed for two months. She even attempted suicide. Laila says her hopes to complete her education were destroyed by her marriage.
“I found myself with a man who wants his marital rights. They destroyed my life.”
Laila spoke to UNICEF to help spread awareness against the trauma and dangers of child marriage, “Many people say: if a girl is 8 years old, she is good for marriage.”
The National Social Protection Monitoring Survey showed that 13 per cent of girls under the age of 18 in Yemen are married, and that nearly half of women between the ages of 20 and 49 were married before their eighteenth birthday. While the National Dialogue Conference, a group formed to assist the country's political transition, has agreed to define “children” as all persons under the age of 18, Yemen has no laws defining a uniform age of marriage, nor protecting girls from being forced into early marriages.
The crisis is widespread. The International Center for Research on Women reports that 1 out of 9 girls worldwide will be forced into marriage before age 15.
Photo Credits: UNICEF