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  Middle East & Africa
The Tragedy of Child Brides
By Shane Clarke
London Correspondent
A victim of man's greed and bad old tradition

It’s the beginning of the new school year. Replete with their new, fashionable hair-do’s, most 12 year old girls are looking forward to another year of exchanging views on who is the best looking boy in class, who are better – Girls Aloud or The Saturdays, and who they think will win The X-Factor this year.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for the child brides of Yemen, where more than a quarter of girls are married before the age of 15. For young girls like Fawziya Abdullah Youssef, who was married at the age of 11, all she can look forward to is what must be painful sex with a man technically old enough to be her father, cooking and cleaning for a husband she didn’t even choose...and dying in childbirth.

Fawziya died of severe bleeding on Friday 11th September after struggling for three days in labour at the al-Zahra district hospital in the Hodeida province, 140 miles west of the capital, San’a. The baby was stillborn.

According to Ahmed al-Quraishi, chairman of Siyaj human rights organisation, Fawziya’s is just one of many cases that exist in Yemen. “The reason behind it,” he says, “is the lack of education and awareness, forcing many girls into marriage at this very early age.”

Mr al-Quraishi, whose group promotes children’s human rights in Yemen, stumbled upon Fawziya’s case while investigating cases of children who had fled from the fighting to the north. It is an all-too-common problem in a society where impoverished parents sometimes give their young daughters away in exchange for hefty dowries.

In an area of the world famed for its wealth, where billionaire businessmen spend hundreds of millions on football teams in the UK, it is hard to comprehend that there could possibly be a region so poor that young girls are forced to be sold by their parents like so much livestock. It’s hard to believe that – in a world where the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child exists – there is not more being done to address this problem.

Perhaps these wealthy businessmen should spend less on overpriced, overpaid football players, and use some of that money to try to save a young girl’s life.



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Shane Clarke serves as London Correspondent for The Seoul Times. He has been involved in humanitarian work for numerous years. He’s also a freelance management consultant. Having completed an honors degree in Law at Wolverhampton University, he then moved on to an MBA at Warwick Business School. He’s heavily involved in the fight against international parental child abduction to Japan.

 

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