Next Phase for Anti-Child Marriage Law

By NY Staff

 The law on “preventing underage marriage” has recently been under discussion in the “Rights and Freedoms Committee” of the National Dialogue Conference in Yemen, which has been authorized to draft a new constitution. This discussion follows the disappointment of many after the committee’s failure to agree on the item when it was first considered. At that time, the law failed to receive the 90% of votes required to pass.

At that time, the law was raised to the consensus   Committee for review, after which it was returned to the Rights Committee. At this point, a law requires the support of 75% of members to pass, which has since occurred. The proposal, which sets the age of marriage at 18 years, enjoyed almost unanimous approval after the Islah Party, who represent the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen, and El Rashad al-Salafi party had left the meeting.

Samia al-Aghbari, the representative of Socialist Party on the Rights and Freedoms Committee in the NDC, said in the connection with NOW, “before we started voting, the Islah Party intentionally created an obstacle by claiming that Arwa Othman, chairperson of the Committee, had added an article on women’s rights. This was not true, and no such item had been added to the report. They clearly made this objection because they were looking for an excuse to pull out from the vote. They knew that 75% of the committee would support the item and it would be approved, so instead they preferred to be absent during the vote. Once they left, the vote was almost unanimous.”

In an interview with NOW, Anis Hussein al-Jacob, a member of the Rights and Freedoms Committee and the representative of the Islah Party, argued Aghbari’s opinion, saying, ” the party was surprised by the addition on the final proposal, which we had not seen before and did not vote on for inclusion in the final draft of the report. So the Islah Party decided to consider this a forgery of the report, and issued a small statement explaining our objection…. What has been said about our withdrawal, which was caused by our objection to the young marriage law, was not true. The Party has different views among its members, some who agree with a minimum age of 18 years, and others who believe that 16 years is appropriate, while others believe that the determination of a minimum marriage age is against religious law. So we needed to meet and agree on a decision representing our party, and this is what happened. We agreed that 18 years could be the minimum marriage age in exceptional cases, while 16 yers should be the age of marriage if approved by a doctor and judge”.

Al-Jacob continued, “we were surprised when text was added to the proposal without our knowledge, providing that men and women ‘have the right to stand for presidential, parliamentary and local elections.’ It is the clearly stated Islah Party view to reject women nominated for election to president, and this led us to pull out”.

A significant argument was raised nevertheless on the subject of preventing young marriage, but the the arrival of the final meeting led many of female activist defenders of this law to celebrate this event. Amal Basha, activist and Dialogue member, wrote on her Facebook page that she was met by prolonged applause and sharp ululations for everyone. “Greetings and veneration for all political and social components who voted against the crime of infanticide in early childhood from the pre-Islamic era.

However, many say they will not consider the vote a real victory until the laws are carried out in Yemen. They see education of citizens to the dangers of early marriage as the most important step in fighting this practice.