Child marriage is a major problem in Yemen, where according to UN and Yemeni government data from 2006, 52 percent of girls are married – often to much older men – before age 18, and 14 percent before 15. If the girls don’t want to marry, their families generally force them. Girls who marry often drop out of school, are more likely to die in childbirth, and face a higher risk of physical and sexual abuse than women who marry at 18 or later. Until now, Yemen has been one of the few countries in the region without any minimum age for marriage.
The political turmoil that has swept Yemen since early 2011 has overshadowed the plight of child brides such as Reem, as thousands of protesters took to the streets to demand the end of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year rule, and security forces responded with excessive and deadly force. But, while the focus of attention both inside and outside of Yemen is understandably the political future of the country, following President Saleh’s agreement in November to cede power before elections in February, child marriages and other discrimination against women and girls in Yemen continue unabated. And while the president’s resignation topped the list of most protestors’ demand, many young demonstrators especially are calling for a wide range of reforms, including measures to guarantee equality between women and men, and an end to child marriage.
The Yemen Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) was carried by the Ministry of Health. Financial and technical support was provided by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and The Pan Arab Project for Family Health (PAPFAM), League of Arab States.
The survey has been conducted as part of the third round of MICS surveys (MICS3), carried out around the world in more than 50 countries, in 2005-2007, following the first two rounds of MICS surveys that were conducted in 1995 and the year 2000. Survey tools are based on the models and standards developed by the global MICS project, designed to collect information on the situation of children and women in countries around the world. Additional information on the global MICS project may be obtained from www.childinfo.org.