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Hope at last for Yemen’s child brides as the country’s leaders finally act to stop forced marriages of girls as young as NINE

From Sally Al-Sabahi who, after being married at the age of 10, was raped and beaten by her much older husband to 13-year-old Ilham who, in 2010, died from internal bleeding four days after being forcibly married, the plight of Yemen’s child brides makes for harrowing reading. But following international condemnation and campaigns by charities such as UNICEF and Equality Now, the country’s government finally appears ready to end the shocking tradition once and for all.

Fouad Al Ghaffari, the director general of Yemen’s Ministry of Human Rights, has revealed that the country’s minister for Legal Affairs, Mohammed Al Mikhlafi, is to submit a bill that would outlaw child marriages if passed. And in a sign that attitudes might finally be changing in the Middle Eastern country, it was reported last week that police officers stepped in to prevent the marriage of a nine-year-old girl in the southern city of Taiz – the first time such an intervention has taken place.

According to reports on the BBC website, police halted the wedding and convinced the father of the girl, named locally as Hiba, not to allow the nuptials to go ahead.

Although there is nothing currently to prevent Hiba’s wedding from happening at a later date, campaigners are cautiously welcoming of the intervention and the news that legislation could be imminent. ‘In 2009, the Yemeni parliament considered a draft bill that fixed the minimum age of marriage for girls at age 17 and included penalties and punishment for those in violation,’ said Equality Now’s Middle East and North Africa consultant, Suad Abu-Dayyeh.

‘Unfortunately this was not successful, but we are heartened that the Yemeni Human Rights Minister Hooria Mashhour has requested the reintroduction of this bill, which would effectively ban child marriages in the country.’

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