Written By: Abdul-Aziz Oudah
Article Date: Feb 17, 2009 - 5:15:29 AM
The Yemeni Women’s Union (YWU) has expressed its concern over the re-opening of the Parliamentary debate concerning the Personal Status Law. The law proposed changing the legal age of marriage to 18, though conflict in parliament forced this to be altered to 17. The current debate threatens to lower this age again.
In a statement issued by the YWU, members reasserted their concerns stating that children under 18 are not physically, psychologically, mentally or socially prepared for marriage. They added that this move goes against the educational, health, and reproductive rights granted to women by the Islamic Sharia. The YWU also pointed out that any marriage at an age earlier than 18 deprives a woman of their right to choose her path in life, including her career, and her partner. Ultimately, marriage at such an early age amounts to coercion.
Members of the Union also stressed the importance of strong legislation against the marriage of minors, as not every parent or guardian chooses to preserve the dignity of their children. The association added that children’s rights regarding marriage should be protected by laws which suit the present circumstances, regardless of historical events.
The leader of the Yemeni Women’s Union stressed the importance of approving article 15, which establishes the age of marriage as 17. This is crucial, as both sexes in Yemen sufferer from early marriage, which negatively impacts not only their health but their social, economic and cultural rights.
The leader of the Yemeni Women’s Union called on clerics and preachers to focus on a number of issues rather than early marriage and divorce rights. These include sustainable development, communal awareness, and the promotion of women’s rights, unemployment, and the eradication of poverty, health-care and good governance.
The statement called on scholars to advocate women’s legal causes, which are derived from the Koran and the Islamic Sharia, which prohibits any harmful or detrimental action against the individual.
The statement demanded that all Yemeni women acknowledge 17 as a safe age for marriage and thanked all MPs who backed the legal amendments which were tabled by the government.
Meanwhile, several women’s organizations met outside parliament as part of a committee headed by the deputy-speaker of parliament. Mohammed al-Shadadi, a prominent human rights committee leader was also in attendance, as well as Mohammed al-Shaif, the head of Islamic Sharia law codification, and MP Abdulhalim al-Wazir.
The women’s delegation thanked the committee for setting the marriage age at 17, and called on parliament not to abandon the amendments to the Personal Status Law, which was opposed by the Islah party parliamentary bloc and some members of the People’s Congress Party. Those opposed to the article demanded the reopening of the debate of the article following its approval, arguing anyone participating in the marriage of an individual under the age of 17 year old should not be punished.
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