Written By: Nasser Arrabyee
Article Date: Feb 28, 2009 - 5:44:14 AM
The representatives of a number of human rights groups gathered at the gates of the Yemeni Parliament on Tuesday to protest against attempts by extremists to cancel a new law banning marriages for children under 17.
The protests came in response to the continued efforts by a number of MPs, supported by extremist clerics from outside parliament and led by Shiekh Abdul Majid Al Zandani, who said setting 17 as the legal age of marriage violated Islam and the Yemeni constitution.
Those opposed demanded the cancellation of the new law to increase the minimum age, which was voted for by the majority of parliament on February 11, 2009.
Islamists supported their view by saying the Prophet Mohammed married Aisha when she was 9 years old and he married off his daughter Fatima when she was 15. Some Islamist MPs have demanded the House of Representatives re-open the debate, and vote a second time on the law. Parliament has formed a committee to investigate the request.
The Minister of Justice Shaif Al Aghbari defended the government’s proposal in a speech before the Yemeni parliament, confirming that the law is Islamic, and stating 18 is the legal age of marriage in many Islamic countries. “I’m sure that the MPs will refuse the request to cancel the law,” said the Minister.
“We have exerted all possible efforts to convince MPs about the importance of having 17 as the legal age of marriage. This is especially important after the receipt of confirmation from experts and doctors that marriage before this age leads to health, psychological, and social problems,” he added.
According to the new law, anyone who gets married or marries off a girl younger than 17 will be punished with one years imprison, or a fine of 100,000 YR, ($US500). Some human rights groups were considering awareness campaigns to educate people about the law, but were surprised when this was refused by a number of MPs, and other advocates of early marriage.
For his part, sociologist Adel Al Sharjabi called on clerics to consider the interests of the people before issuing Fatwas.
“If it has been proven that the Prophet got married to Aisha at 9 years old and Khadeejaat at 40, it does not mean that Muslims must marry at this or that age. Everything depends on the circumstances in the society at the time,” Al Sharjabi said.
“The Prophet never used a plane or a car in his traveling, does it mean we should not use the planes and the cars because he did not use them?” he wondered.
On her part, human rights activist Suha Ba Shirin said “The clerics need to visit the houses to see the divorce cases and death rates among mothers. They should not look only at their daughters who may be happy.”
• Yemen seizes military materiel
• Yemen: Democracy School certified as division of Defense for Children International
• Yemen’s army shells tribal areas after pipeline sabotage
• Sawa’a organization calls for Jewish involvement in Yemen’s National Dialogue
• US aircraft carrying soldiers, equipment lands in Yemen