Human Rights

The Argument for Young Brides in Yemen

It may seem counterintuitive, but the death of Elham Assi, 13-year-old Yemeni bride, has prompted protests in the nation in favor of upholding the nation’s traditionally young marriage age for women. In the wake of the Assi’s death and other similar incidents, Yemen’s parliament attempted to raise the marriage age to 18—but in the face of accusations of Western influence and potential violation of Sharia law, the bill has fallen into a long process of bureaucratic wrangling. Though most Yemenis support the change, more extreme conservatives have begun to stage protests, and onetime “spiritual guide” for Osama bin Laden Abdul-Majid al-Zindani has said that the law “threatens our culture and society.” The backlash reflects the larger concern of Western influence in Yemen. As one member of parliament explained, "If people think a law is ‘American,' it's done. Finished. It's over.” A subcommittee of parliament is scheduled to decide by May whether the marriage bill is a violation of Sharia law.