Tuesday, 8 October 2013

'After the wedding, fear set in': a Yemeni child bride's story

 This made me sick to my stomach :(. 

"My husband provided a dowry of around $150, which was a huge amount. But it was at the end of the wedding that the fear and horror set in. I was taken away from my parents and left with a man who meant nothing to me. He drove me to the house he shared with his widowed father in Al Hudaydah. It was a nice home but I immediately started to quiver, and to cry."
When Al Ahdam, a clerical worker in the city's Red Sea port, took his clothes off in front of Noora for the first time, she ran away. She avoided sex for 10 days, before being told by Al Ahdam's sisters that she was "bringing shame on our brother by rejecting him".
After succumbing to Al Ahdam's advances for the first time, Noora's body went into shock. "I was rushed to hospital – I was a child being treated as a sex object, but the abuse did not stop. Nobody was interested in my complaints, as I was legally a wife."
There were two miscarriages within a year, before Noora gave birth to a son called Ihab when she was 13. A daughter, Ahlam, followed when Noora was 14, and then Shihab, another son, when she was 15. All of the pregnancies were problematic.
Al Ahdam became increasingly violent. "He thought nothing of hitting me, even when I was pregnant," said Noora. "If his father hadn't been in the house, it would have been even worse. His presence was some kind of restraint, but I was still very badly injured." The children suffered too. When Ahlam was two, Al Ahdam grabbed her by the feet and banged her on the floor. The child was taken to hospital bleeding.
After 10 years of constant attacks, Noora joined a project run by Oxfamand the Yemeni Women's Union which assists victims of domestic violence. With their help, she successfully filed for divorce. A further legal battle followed as Noora fought for money to bring up her children. The process is ongoing but she at least managed to return to school and trained as a teacher. Now she is pushing for strictly enforced legislation to end child marriages.

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