Thursday, April 17, 2008

Eight Year Old Yemeni Girl Sues Over Forced Marriage

An eight-year old girl from Yemen went to court after being forced into marriage with a 30-year old man. Under Yemeni law, she was too young to prosecute a case, but upon hearing her complain the presiding judge ordered the arrest of both her "husband" and her father.
“My father beat me and told me that I must marry this man, and if I did not, I would be raped and no law and no sheikh in this country would help me. I refused but I couldn’t stop the marriage,” Nojoud Nasser told the Yemen Times. “I asked and begged my mother, father, and aunt to help me to get divorced. They answered, ‘We can do nothing. If you want you can go to court by yourself.’ So this is what I have done,” she said.

Nasser said that she was exposed to sexual abuse and domestic violence by her husband. “He used to do bad things to me, and I had no idea as to what a marriage is. I would run from one room to another in order to escape, but in the end he would catch me and beat me and then continued to do what he wanted. I cried so much but no one listened to me. One day I ran away from him and came to the court and talked to them.”

“Whenever I wanted to play in the yard he beat me and asked me to go to the bedroom with him. This lasted for two months," added Nasser. "He was too tough with me, and whenever I asked him for mercy, he beat me and slapped me and then used me. I just want to have a respectful life and divorce him.”

I debated for a long time over how to write up this post. My first instinct was applaud the girl for being a total bad-ass in this situation. But that felt inappropriate. She demonstrated tremendous courage, no doubt about it. But the fact remains she never should have been put in this situation in the first place. It is far too much to ask of an eight year old, to have to go to court to win her freedom from sexual slavery. She is clearly an extraordinary girl, and she has more than earned her "respectful life" (not that such a thing needs to be earned). Hopefully, her case can serve as a spark point to aid other girls, similarly situated, who do not possess super-human courage and cannot escape on their own.

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