Married, 8 years old

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We shouldn’t wait until tragedy strikes to shed light on an issue; if people had acted, 8-year-old Rawan from Yemen would still be alive.

After dying due to internal injuries caused from her wedding night, Yemen’s human rights minister Hooria Mashhour is asking parliament to pass a ban on child marriage, according to an article on Aljazeera America.

The same article states nearly 14 percent of girls in Yemen are married before the age of 15 and 52 percent are married before the age of 18. Rawan was married to a 40-year-old man, five times her age.

Child marriage remains even after the Yemeni government passed legislation in 2009, which changed the age of legal marriage to 17, according to CNN. However, due to religiously conservative parliamentarians arguing the bill was in violation of Islamic law, it was never signed.

This isn’t the first case of a child dying from internal injuries after getting married. In 2010, a 12-year-old died from excessive internal bleeding, according to the United Nation’s Children Fund.

The debate on child marriage was brought to people’s attention four years ago, and it is shameful that activist groups are only now pushing for a solution. A child dying as result of her wedding night should be a call to action. When a child is married to a man five times her age, it threatens basic human rights.

The CNN article also states more than 100 clerics claim restricting the age of marriage is un-Islamic. Religious traditions are important, but when the cost is a little girl’s life, the line between right and wrong is concrete.

Other citizens of Yemen say they marry their daughters to much older men to cut down on the costs of raising a child. Aljazeera America states the European Union spends about 80 million dollars a year on aid to Yemen, yet the effects of poverty still remain.

According to neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt on NPR, the brain is not fully developed and mature until well into our 20’s. Under what circumstances could people believe an eight year old would be mentally and emotionally prepared to be a wife?

More so, why are we just hearing about this now? The careless attitude people seem to have where they are only concerned with what directly affects them must end. Rawan was someone’s daughter. She was someone’s sister. No one spoke up for her, and she will forever be a victim.

People say how simple life is through the eyes of a child, but we need to take off our rose-colored glasses and realize that for young girls in Yemen, life is startlingly complicated.

Cultural differences aside, this is just plain wrong. It is obvious the people of Yemen consider their religious traditions as a foundation of their culture, but in order to save future victims, they need to re-evaluate what is at stake.

Part of me believes the reason this has been largely ignored is because most people are apathetic to the problems of other countries, and it is impossible to save everyone.

It is true that Yemen is thousands of miles away and has a different system of government, but at the end of the day, we are all human beings. The girls who are suffering deserve to have someone stand up for them.

When I was eight, the biggest worry in my life was making sure my Barbies had matching outfits. Rawan’s childhood was taken from her before it could even truly begin. If there was ever a time to act, it is now.

-Dominique Wald is a senior communication major from Santa Clarita, Calif. She can be contacted at 335-2290 or by [email protected] The opinions expressed in this Column are not necessarily those of the staff of The Daily Evergreen or those of Student Publications.