A video of an 11-year-old Yemeni girl and her escape from a forced marriage has gone viral since being posted by MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute). The Internet video posted on July 21, 2013 has received nearly 6 million views and brings the issue of forced marriage to the attention of people across the world. Most often forced marriages are between young girls and much older men.
Although most frequently occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, forced marriages of child brides can be found throughout the world. According to Plan UK, 14 million girls under the age of 18 marry each year that means that there are 38,461 marriages of girls under the age of 18 every day.
In Niger, Chad and Mali the rate of early or forced marriage is greater than 70% of all marriages. Countries in Europe with the highest rate of forced marriage are Georgia (17% of marriages), Turkey (14%), and Ukraine (10%). In Britain and France at least 10% of adolescents marry before the age of 18. The Tahirih Justice Center in the United States discovered that there have been over 3,000 forced marriages in the U.S. in the past two years. In Australia, figures released from 2011 revealed that more than 200 17-year-old girls were granted “prospective spouse visas” to enter the country with hundreds more 18, 19 and 20 year-olds. The majority of the teenagers were from the Middle East or Southeast Asia.
The reasons for forced marriages in western nations vary. In some cases parents may force their daughters to marry to keep them from becoming too “westernized” or for family honor or to gain economic security. Tahirih explains, “Whatever the rationale, the result may subject the woman or girl to severe and sustained harm, including domestic abuse, marital rape, and other forms of violence. It is important to note that child marriages are not limited to members of the Islamic faith, however Muslim men following the way of Muhammad can justify marrying children. “
In many Muslim traditions, Muhammad’s wife, Aisha is described as his most beloved wife. The Hadith (Bukhari 58:234 and Muslim 8:3309) describes Muhammad becoming engaged to Aisha when she was only six years old and consummating the marriage when she was nine. A prominent Muslim cleric in Saudi Arabia issued a fatwa in 2011 “asserting that there is no minimum age for marriage, and that girls can be married ‘even if they are in the cradle.’”
Two Yemeni girls have died due to marriage at such a young age. A 13-year-old-girl died five days after her wedding after she suffered a rupture in her sex organs and bled to death, and another 12-year-old child died during childbirth. This practice whether due to religious or cultural practices is an abuse of the basic human rights of children.
Pray that the international community will speak out loud and clear regarding young girls being forced into marriage and possible abuse when they are too young to understand what is taking place or too young to take on this responsibility.
When parents are taught in their culture that child marriage is acceptable, ask God to open their eyes to the truth that this will most likely be frightening and harmful to the young girls.
Pray for strong Christian marriages to be an example to other cultures and religions of God’s plan for a husband to have one wife and to live in an atmosphere of love and mutual respect – rather than a subservient relationship based on fear.