Muslim Father Tries to Marry Daughter, 8, to Nephew

Just in time: A Yemeni police officer escorts the eight-year-old from the wedding as she holds on to the uncle who helped stop the wedding

Just in time: A Yemeni police officer escorts the eight-year-old from the wedding as she holds on to the uncle who helped stop the wedding

Armed police swooped in on a wedding in Yemen after it emerged the happy couple was an eight-year-old girl and her own cousin.

The drama took place in the northern province of Ibb after an uncle of child bride Ifthikar contacted local activists who called authorities.

Police arrested the father of the eight-year-old, but released him after six days in jail when he promised to wait until she is of legal age.

Yemeni human rights activists called police after Ifthikar's uncle contacted a journalist at the local newspaper which reported of the wedding between the eight-year-old and her relative.

Police arrived just in time to stop the wedding, and found Ifthikar and her mother locked in a nearby house as the father had fled the scene.

The mother initially opposed the wedding, but gave in when her husband threatened to divorce her, Yasser Abbad, a local journalist and activist told Gulfnews.

'The girl’s uncle was angry when he heard about the marriage, but was unable to stop it. So he contacted us a day before the wedding,' Abdul Yousifi, another local activist said.

'The girl is a primary school student and was unaware that she was getting married.'

The father told police he had given a ‘tribal pledge’ to marry his daughter to his nephew after another man rejected his offer of marriage.

He was jailed for less than a week, but as he is the sole breadwinner, police let him go in order to prevent his family from suffering.

The practice of marrying young girls is widespread in Yemen and has attracted the attention of international rights groups seeking to pressure the government to outlaw child marriages.

Yemen's gripping poverty plays a role in hindering efforts to stamp out the practice, as poor families find themselves unable to say no to 'bride-prices' that can be hundreds of dollars for their daughters.

More than a quarter of Yemen's females marry before age 15, according to a report in 2010 by the Social Affairs Ministry.

Tribal custom also plays a role, including the belief that a young bride can be shaped into an obedient wife, bear more children and be kept away from temptation.

In September 2010, a 12-year-old Yemeni child-bride died after struggling for three days in labour to give birth, a local human rights organisation said.

Yemen once set 15 as the minimum age for marriage, but parliament annulled that law in the 1990s, saying parents should decide when a daughter marries.

Last autumn, Yemeni Human Rights Ministry officials said they are making progress in trying to bring a legal minimum age to marriage, but nothing has yet been written into law.

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