Child marriage soars in Yemen as famine looms — UN

Yemeni child brides with their husbands. (Video grab)
Updated 27 March 2017
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Child marriage soars in Yemen as famine looms — UN

LONDON: Child marriage has soared in Yemen as families struggle to feed their children amid a conflict that has left the country on the brink of famine, the UN children’s agency said on Monday.
More than two thirds of girls in Yemen are married off before they reach 18, compared to half of girls before the conflict escalated, UNICEF said in a report to mark the second anniversary of the war.
It said parents struggling with deepening poverty were increasingly marrying off their daughters to reduce costs and the number of mouths to feed or because they believed a husband’s family could offer better protection.
Around 80 percent of families in Yemen are in debt or are borrowing money to feed their children, the agency said.
Dowry payments — paid by the husband’s family in Yemen — are an additional incentive for poor parents to marry daughters off early, it added.
There is no minimum age of marriage in Yemen where campaigners say girls are sometimes wed at eight or nine. Some die from rape injuries or childbirth complications after becoming pregnant before their bodies are fully developed.
Yemen’s hunger crisis follows two years of civil war pitting the Iran-allied Houthi group against a Saudi-backed coalition, which has caused economic collapse and severely restricted food and fuel imports.
More than 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict and around 3 million people have fled their homes, although some are now returning.
Early marriage is especially common in Al Hudaydah, Hajah and Ibb governorates that host large numbers of uprooted people, UNICEF said.
“One of the first casualties when families are displaced and lose their incomes is girls,” UNICEF’s spokesman in Yemen, Rajat Madhok, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Initial results from a new UNICEF study on child marriage suggest around 44 percent of girls and women are married under the age of 15 in some parts of Yemen.
Bilkis, 16, told researchers how life had become unbearable after she was married at 13.
“I was a child who was not mentally and physically able to be a wife,” the report quoted her as saying. “I was warned not to do anything that children do. Through the window, I could watch other children play.”
Child marriage not only endangers girls’ lives but deprives them of education and opportunities, and increases the risk of domestic and sexual violence, campaigners say. 


Israeli minister says Trump peace plan a ‘waste of time’

Updated 52 min 28 sec ago
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Israeli minister says Trump peace plan a ‘waste of time’

  • “I think that the gap between the Israelis and Palestinians is much too big to be bridged”
  • “I think personally it’s a waste of time”

JERUSALEM: A senior Israeli minister said Wednesday that US President Donald Trump’s long-awaited plan for peace with the Palestinians was “a waste of time.”
“I think that the gap between the Israelis and Palestinians is much too big to be bridged,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said at a conference organized by the Jerusalem Post newspaper.
“I think personally it’s a waste of time,” she said when asked what she thought about the peace initiative Trump is expected to unveil in the weeks or months ahead.
Shaked is part of the far-right Jewish Home party, a key member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition.
She and other members of her party openly oppose a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Palestinians have already vowed to block Trump’s peace plan and severed ties with his administration after his December decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and declare the city Israel’s capital.
The Palestinians also see the city as the capital of their future state and international consensus has been that Jerusalem’s status must be negotiated between the two sides.
Trump has also cut some $500 million in aid to the Palestinians, who accuse the White House of seeking to blackmail them into accepting a plan they view as blatantly biased in favor of Israel.
Trump aide Jason Greenblatt said recently in an interview with the Times of Israel news site that the plan would “be heavily focused on Israeli security needs” while remaining “fair to the Palestinians.”
While expressing her pessimism on the chances for making peace with the Palestinians for now, Shaked however said she would keep an open mind on the US plan.
“Although I want peace like anyone else, I’m just more realistic, and I know that in the current future it is impossible,” she said, speaking in English.
“But let’s wait and see what they (the US) will offer.”