Yemen’s Houthi-controlled areas see dramatic rise in child marriages

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Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen have recently seen a rise in child marriages since the start of the war in the country, reports suggest.

Child marriages have always been prevalent in Yemen. However, there have been reports that the trend is seeing a rise under Houthi control.

Mohammed Abdullah al-Zawani was forced to marry off his 12-year-old daughter Eman after a Houthi militia kidnapped her during her return from school and hid her for a while. The militia later forced her father to allow him to marry her under threat.

The story of Eman is one of the thousands of young women between the ages of 8 and 15 years who have been forced into marriage.

“The absence of the role of civil and human rights organizations because of the closure of their headquarters by the Houthis has resulted in child marriages flourishing and results in accidents that lead to death,” Yemeni human rights sources said.

“It is difficult to find accurate statistics for the marriages of young girls since the coup, but the numbers are high,” Yemeni human rights sources added.

UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Gert Kapelier, estimated that the incidence of young girls being forced intoto marriage in Yemen has increased by 20 percent since the outbreak of the war.

According to UN Under-Secretary-General Stephen O'Brien, Yemeni families are increasingly marrying off their young daughters to provide food for the family, often using the dowry to pay for basic necessities. This is not a new phenonmion in Yemen, however, due to the war many families have been thrown into poverty which could explain the surge.

A study conducted earlier this year by Oxfam warned of the growing risk of early marriage in Yemen, citing several reasons, including attempts by families to protect their daughters from harassment or destitution to provide income to the family.

“Some people talked about the stories of young girls who were forced to be brides to members of militant group until their families received any help,” the study said.

The report said that before the outbreak of the war there had been progress in the steps taken to combat the issue of marriage of minors, but with the continuation of the conflict, the progress has been reversed.