Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Blue Ribbon For Yemen

With a geographic location in Southwest Asia at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen is a country that most may know of as third world. In its topographic terrain lie colossal poverty, indigent economy and grim possibilities of a social and a cultural transition. An impending plague of child marriages leading to physical, sexual and psychological abuse of the girl child is this country’s incessant social menace. Haley Sweetland Edwards’s crisis report about a 13 year olds death due to internal hemorrhaging from sexual assault by an older husband is a symptom of Yemen’s parasitical social and cultural outlook. How callous are the Yemeni men who treat little girls as cash reaping cattle and barter innocence for an eclipsed life. With dearth of resources, lack of education, Yemen’s social facelift today seems feeble and impervious, given the religious and stringent Sharia law that favors child marriages.

At an age when dolls are like desires and physical and emotional maturity is raw, an unwanted relationship is like sailing in deep sea without navigation. From the thrill of getting a new dress and some bridal jewelry, the exhilaration and efflorescence of these young child brides turns into rage and sexual drudgery overnight. A sprout of chastity and childhood in naive Yemeni girls turns into a forced and aggressive invasion of their virginity and demure. It is not only pitiful but also shameful for a civilization to act brutal and insane against the  impeccant emotions of these little lily-whites. Tormenting as it may sound but this truth is like a dark dust that covers Yemeni clouds and sand castles with its dogmatic mores. According to UNICEF’s data on monitoring situation of children and women, as of Feb 2010, Yemen ranks No.1 at 32% in terms of marriage before the age of 18, which is highest compared to its middle east counterparts in Palestine, Egypt, Iraq, Morroco, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Algeria.

For Yemenis child marriage may be a traditional habitude and a religious precedent. But how apostolic is this cultural practice that changes marriage into slavery and adolescence into apartheid? It is important to understand that what may have been applicable in ca. 570/571 or after (the early Islamic era) cannot and should not be same in the 21st century. With a critical perspective, we would realize that if man had survived on prophecies and prognosis alone, space exploration and technological advances would have been impossible. Moreover, implementing social change through education, liberation from injustice and emancipation through equal rights would also have been Utopian.

In my opinion, child marriage is an abuse not only of child rights but also of kinship. A father selling his daughter for few thousand dollars or for an exchange of a new bride for himself in no way is veneration for religion. It’s a question of attitudes and avarice for all those who preach and perform such practice. Calamitous for any society yet true, it is man’s stereotypical nature to use religion and the Holy Scriptures to shield any conservative thinking, misdeeds or sin. Besides, all religions stand alike in their humanitarian philosophy. So what could be more benevolent than letting little girls bud into maturity before they fear of marriage as rape? The Yemeni parliamentary subcommittee’s decision that is scheduled for May should be an echo of such change. 

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