UPDATE: The Gulf News correspondent who originally questioned the story of the death of the child bride has now published a follow-up investigative report, A wedding, a funeral, or a cover-up?
To take photos of the father and his daughter, Gulf News had to obtain permission from the security officer who stayed around waiting for the newspaper to finish its interview and inquiries. Armed security escorts and some local residents surrounded Gulf News, creating a sense of fear in those being questioned — with little room for thorough checking or questioning interview subjects more deeply…
All the eyewitnesses who spoke to Gulf News about the alleged death of the girl in Haradh confidently say that the girl married, died and was secretly buried in Haradh. But they all say that they do not have concrete evidence to prove Rawan’s death and they heard the story through the grapevine…
Midi residents say that the rich husband paid thousands of Saudi Rials to the local police and her family to cover up the death…
Local activists and residents in Haradh warned Gulf News about the risks of pursuing the story.
“Be careful when you investigate the death of Rawan,” warned an English teacher who himself was investigating the alleged death. “This area is a bleeding ground for smugglers and criminals.”
That report was then called into question by Saeed Al Batati, a correspondent for Gulf News. His article received lots of attention and push back, causing him to investigate even further. Though he hasn’t yet published his new report (expected later today), he tweeted this:
In response to this latest controversy, Yemen’s human rights minister, Hooria Mashhour, has called for the revival of a bill that would enforce a minimum age of marriage:
Minister of Human Rights sent a letter to the chairman of the parliament to approve the minimum age of marriage and in force it#Yemen—
Hooria Mashhour (@Hooria_Mashhour) September 14, 2013
AFP reported the following:
Huriya Mashhoor told AFP she wanted to revive a bill that has lain dormant since 2009, which would have set the minimum age for marriage at 17, and amend it to raise the age to 18.
Activists say the bill was shelved when ultraconservative lawmakers from the Islamist Al-Islah party blocked it…
We are asking to fix the legal age for marriage at 18, as Yemen is a signatory to the international conventions on children’s rights.
Whether or not this particular story is true, it is a fact that child marriage is widely practiced in Yemen. Oxfam says about half of Yemeni girls are married before the age of 18. Here is a report by Human Rights Watch on the topic, which addresses some of the reasons why this practice exists: