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Yemen lawmakers to consider minimum marriage age for girls

A Yemeni girl takes part in the first session of the children's parliament in Sana'a.

Source : Agencies / 28 Apr 2014

An international rights group says a law setting 18 as the minimum age to get married will be proposed in Yemen and has urged its passage.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement that the draft law was presented to the government on Sunday by the Legal Affairs Minister Mohammed Al-Mekhlafi.

It says the law will be reviewed by the Cabinet before it is submitted to parliament.

In a December 2011 report, the group said about 14 percent of girls in Yemen were married before age 15. It also said 52 percent were wed before they turned 18.

Nadim Houry, an official at Human Rights Watch, says the draft bill is “a real beacon of hope for the thousands of Yemeni girls vulnerable to being married off while still children.”

The draft law in article 46(c) requires the official filling out the marriage contract to verify the age of both the man and the woman. Article 242(a) provides criminal penalties of between two months and one year in prison and a fine of up to YER 400,000 (US$1,860) for any authorized person who draws up a marriage contract knowing that at least one party is under 18. Any witnesses or signatories to the marriage contract, including the parents or other guardians, who know that at least one party is under 18 face a prison sentence of between one and three months and a fine of between YER 100,000 (US$460) and 250,000 (US$1,160).

The draft law also addresses other important children’s rights issues. Articles 13(b) and 242(b) prohibit the practice of female genital mutilation, providing criminal penalties of between one and three years in prison and a fine of up to YER 1,000,000 (US$4,644) to those who carry out the cutting. Articles 162 and 250(b) prohibit the use or recruitment of child soldiers, providing a fine of up to300,000 (US$1,393). Articles 150 to 157 and 247 prohibit child labor in line with international legal standards, providing fines for violators of up to YER 200,000 (US$930).

The Yemeni government nearly passed similar legislation in 2009. Parliament was then scheduled to vote on a minimum age for marriage provision, but a small conservative bloc sought and obtained an additional review by the parliamentary Shariah Committee, which reviews draft laws to assess their compatibility with Shariah. After the committee objected to the draft law on religious grounds, neither parliament nor the president took further steps to adopt the law.


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