“Well aware of its
effectiveness for retaining control over females, Yemenite Jewish men [from
the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century] submitted
to the rabbinical ruling which permits a man to have sexual intercourse with
a female once she is three years and one day old (b. Niddah 44b). Although it
seems to have been rare in
However, twenty-nine of Dorsky’s fifty women (1986:p143-5) claimed to be premenarchal at marriage.
“Despite the general claim in Άmran that a few considerate men delay sexual relations until their wives are sexually mature, this was not the case for any of these twenty-nine informants. Although townswomen are sharply critical of “excessively early” marriages (but they do not define excessive earliness precisely), they do not focus specifically on the attainment of menarche. Almost no women state directly that girls who do not menstruate are not ready for marriage. In fact, many claim that sexual activity hastens the onset of menstruation, although several say they themselves did not begin to menstruate until several years after marriage. A few months after her daughter’s marriage, a woman announced proudly to me, “Arwa has gotten to be all right!” When I asked what she meant, she explained, “She has gotten her period [...]. It usually comes quickly once a girl gets married” (p135).
According to Chelhod (1973:p60) in was common for girls to marry before puberty. In one village (Bornstein, 1974), 22 out of 147 were married between eight and ten. As in Maklouf (1979), the average age for girls was estimated at 13 or 14, and significantly higher for males. In another, far northern village (Myntti, 1979), 65% of ever-married women had done so before puberty.
Dorsky (1986:p123) stated that women say they had no idea of what was to occur in their wedding nights, and believe it is best for a woman to learn such things from her husband. “Many mothers say they would be too embarrassed to tell their daughters what to expect. However, some women say that, in actuality, girls do learn about sex from an early age, although the knowledge may well fail to protect them from experiencing shock and shame at their first sexual experience”.
“In 1999, the rarely enforced minimum marriage age of fifteen for women was abolished, and instead the onset of puberty was set as a requirement for consummation of marriage, interpreted by conservatives as the age of nine[]. An amendment to the personal status law to introduce a minimum age – eighteen years – for marriage was introduced in 2001, but the proposal has not been passed by the parliament []”.
“Girls are seen to be marriageable as soon as they
have reached puberty. In the urban sites in Dhamar we find that those under
25 years of age were generally married by the time they were fourteen. For
those over twenty five years of age the age at marriage ranged between 11 –
13 years and often before the onset of menstruation. The girls who are not
married at fourteen among our respondents were the ones who were completing
school and there were exceptional circumstances that kept them there.
However, this does not mean that school-going girls are not married off at
the age of fourteen since many of our under twenty respondents were withdrawn
from school and married off. In the rural areas the pattern is similar to
that in the urban sites with age at marriage for younger women (under twenty)
being about fourteen and for women above twenty five ranging between 11 – 13.
In the urban sites in
As for jurisdiction,
“The Personal Status Act. Article 15 of this Act sets the minimum age for marriage at 15 years in the case of both males and females. Article 127 sets the minimum age of maturity for men at 10 years, on the attainment of puberty, and for women at 9 years, likewise on the attainment of puberty […] Article 272 of the Penal Code prescribes a penalty of up to five years' imprisonment for anyone who, through force or deception, sexually abuses a female under 15 years of age, a male under 12 years of age or any person who is wholly or partly incapable of exercising discretion for any reason whatsoever. The same penalty applies if the offender is an ascendant of the victim or responsible for his or her upbringing”.
D. F., Growing Up Sexually.
Last revised: Oct. 2004
It is common in state and in other societies,
especially those with a sexual hierarchy in which males supersede females, to
encourage male control over females through early real or symbolic sexual
access to prepubertal ones. Early betrothals and marriage are one of the most
common expressions of masculine (and parental) dominance. Among the
Dahbany-Miraglia, D. (1999) Getting Away with Murder: The Application of Marriage Laws in Jewish Yemen, Women in Judaism: A Multidisciplinary Journal 1,3 [http://www.utoronto.ca/wjudaism/journal/vol2n1/article1.html]
 Al-Rabee, Arwa (January, 2003) Adolescent Reproductive Health in
 Dorsky, S. (1986) Women of Άmran.
 Chelhod, J. (1973) La parenté et le marriage au Yémen, L’Ethnographie 67:47-90
 Bornstein, A. (1974)
Food and Society in the
 Maklouf, B. (1979) Changing Veils.
 Myntti, C. (1979) Women and Development in the
 Human Rights Watch
World Report 2001:
 Human Rights Watch World Report 2002, pt. 483 [orig. footnote]
 Ljung, Ch. (2003) Women’s Rights and Shari’a- A comparative study of marriage and family relations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in the cases of Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen. Master thesis, University of Lund, p42 [http://www.aija.org.au/online/ICABenchbook.htm]
 Muslim Women and Development action research project. Synthesis report. Amsterdam, KIT Gender, and Women and Development Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2001 / Muslim Women and Development Action Research Project, Annex 8, YEMEN (2001). Yemeni Women’s Union (YWU), Yemen, Dhamar Women’s Health Center, Yemen, p4 [http://www.kit.nl/specials/assets/images/Muslimwomen-synthesis-Yemen.pdf]
 Second periodic reports of States parties due in 1998: Yemen. 23/07/98. CRC/C/70/Add.1. (State Party Report) [http://www.arabhumanrights.org/countries/yemen/crc/crc-c70-add1-98e.pdf]