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Yemenis against child marriages

SANAA, Mar 23 – Hundreds of women rallied outside Yemen\’s parliament on Tuesday in support of a law setting a minimum age for marriage in the country, two days after a larger protest opposing the law.

The demonstration was organised by the General Union of Yemeni Women and other women\’s organisations, in response to a Sunday protest by thousands of women against the bill that was called by Islamists and conservatives.

Among the protesters on Tuesday was Nojoud Mohammed Ali, who obtained a divorce two years ago after her father forced her to marry a man 20 years her senior when she was only eight.

A delegation of protesters met with parliament speaker Yehya al-Raei, who vowed to reject any demand to reconsider the bill, according to a member of the delegation.

The law, which fixes the age of marriage for girls at 17 and 18 for boys, was passed last year. But some MPs have submitted requests for the law\’s review, prohibiting its enactment.

Some Muslims believe the minimum age of marriage need not be fixed since Islam did not do so, and that the Prophet Mohammed married his wife Aisha when she was nine years old.

The marriage of young girls is widespread in Yemen, an impoverished country with a strong tribal structure.

The death of a 12-year-old girl in childbirth in September illustrated the case of the country\’s "brides of death," many of whom are married off even before puberty.

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