OP-ED

When children are raped by their protectors

National Yemen

Asma al-Mohattwari

In Yemeni society, a girl considers her father to be a source of safety and security that can protect her from cruelty and injustice in the world around her. She always holds her father’s hands, because she feels their love and tenderness. But Samer’s father let his daughter’s feelings down; he shattered the meaning of fatherhood and violated the right of childhood.

Samer’s suffering started when her father divorced her mother, leaving behind her three sons and one year-old daughter, Semar. The mother tried to take Samer, but her husband refused. The village the mother lives in gave the father the right of custody. The mother was forced to marry again, and stopped asking about her children because she was busy with her new life.

Two years passed, and the father lost his sense of humanity. He sent his three sons outside to play to be alone with his victim. He started coming closer to her, and with a smilem Samer was looking to him thinking that he came to play with her. He raped her in a brutal manner and her crying and shouting did not stop him.

Her brothers went to their uncle’s house and said “our father is beating Samer.” The uncle went over, and knocked on the door, but was forced to crawl over the wall when he didn’t answer. He found Samer wet and in a daze, astonished that she could be beaten like this, but not thinking that it could be rape. Samer was bleeding, so they took her to the hospital, where they learned everything. The uncle took Samer’s father to the police, and Samer was referred to intensive care.

Judge Ibrahim al-Dbibi eventually handled the criminal case. Despite the offender’s admission of guilt, and the Yemeni Women Union’s hired lawyer Ghada Abdullah, the judge reduced his sentence to fifteen years in prison rather than an execution.

Prosecutor Jamal al-Sharabi said that if he had the authority, he would change the laws so that they were even harsher.

“It is the first time for me to have such a heinous offense, in which I did not believe it at all, the fact that animals do not do it.”

Abdullah outlined the difficulties facing Samer in the future.

“Her uncle will take her to live in his home, but I really worry about her future and new life and how to be. She will be vulnerable to rape and the community will not have mercy on her.”

Abdullah confirmed that there should be a law to protect the children who exposed to rape from the family and the community.

“The government should create a suitable environment for them for rehabilitation and protection. For the girl she will forget but the community around her will remind her.”

She added that preachers in mosques should make people aware that their children are a deposit, not property, so they should protect this deposit and not to use them as they want even in work, early marriage, sexual harassment, or rape.

“Child rape happens a lot, but families cover the crime because of the fear of shame and scandal. Children do not have the right to choose their families, so we shouldn’t let them suffer, and at least government should put dissuasive sanctions for the criminals in prisons.”

Yemenis have a hope that the new constitution will come with effective new laws for Yemenis in general, and children in particular.