Twelve-Year-Old Child Dies Three Days After Marriage

Amie Newman

A 12-year-old Yemeni girl is forced to marry and bleeds to death following sexual intercourse, three days later.

From UN Wire, a news service from the United Nations Foundation:

The death of a 12-year-old Yemeni girl, who died from internal bleeding caused by intercourse after her marriage to an older husband, highlights the dangers faced by girls in Yemen, a UNICEF representative said. One-third of girls there are married by age 18, according to the UN.

The blog of the international family planning organization, Population Institute, writing on the dangers of child marriage in Yemen, notes that the country is now considering a law which would ban marriage before age 16 but it’s meeting with “fierce resistance” from religious and rural leaders in the country.

Child marriage, or more precisely, the devaluation of girls’ and womens’ lives, is responsible for many dangerous and deadly scenarios in Yemen.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

CNN, covering this most recent story, reports that:

In September, a 12-year-old Yemeni girl forced into marriage died during childbirth. Her baby also died, according to the Seyaj Organization for the Protection of Children.

As is the case with many issues related to womens’ and girls’ oppression, it often takes one courageous soul to ignite a spark of change. With this issue, in Yemen, the spark has come in the form of a now twelve-year old girl, Nujood Ali. Nujood was married off at 10 years old, to a 30 year old man:

She was married not long after that and taken away from her family to live with her husband and his family. Nujood’s husband raped her on their wedding night, even after promising her father that he would not touch her until a year after her first period.

The next day she was put to work around the house and she was not allowed to leave the house or play with other children her own age. Her husband routinely beat her and her mother-in-law did not offer any sympathy; she just told Nujood’s husband, “Hit her even harder. She must listen to you – she is your wife.” After weeks of rape, beatings, crying and begging she was allowed to go visit her parents. While there Nujood gathered all her courage and ran away to the courthouse to find a judge to grant her a divorce.

She was granted her divorce with the help of a judge who connected her with a lawyer with links to feminist groups. Since then, two more Yemeni girls were granted divorces and Nujood has written a book about her experiences.

You can read more here and here.

Commentary Human Rights

Phyllis Schlafly: Still Wrong (and Mean) After All These Years

Carole Joffe

A recent column by Phyllis Schlafly—arguably nation’s, if not the world’s, most famous hater of the feminist movement—shows just how woefully out of touch she and the conservative spokeswomen who have followed her are today.

“The best way to improve economic prospects for women is to improve job prospects for the men in their lives, even if that means increasing the so-called pay gap.”

The above quote is from a recent column by Phyllis Schlafly, arguably the nation’s, if not the world’s, most famous hater of the feminist movement. I had not seen mention of her in the media for some time, and this column has caused me to reflect both on her long career and her relevance. Her column also sparked thoughts about the larger problem that U.S. conservatism has had in finding credible spokeswomen.

I confess to some grudging admiration for Schlafly, given that at nearly 90 she is still active politically—but that is the only thing about her I can admire. Ever since the 1970s, Schlafly has devoted her considerable energies to vilifying the women’s movement and those who identify with it. Here are some of her positions on various items of the feminist policy agenda:

On marital rape:By getting married, the woman has consented to sex, and I don’t think you can call it rape.”

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

On sexual harassment:Non-criminal sexual harassment on the job is not a problem for the virtuous woman except in the rarest of cases.”

On domestic violence: “When marriages are broken by false allegations of domestic violence, U.S. taxpayers fork up an estimated $20 billion a year to support the resulting single-parent, welfare-dependent families.”

To be sure, Schlafly is hardly unique as an opponent of feminist policy initiatives. What is particularly off-putting, however, in both her writing and her personal appearances, is the vitriol with which she attacks her enemies. Schlafly, with her frequent cattiness, may in fact be the original “mean girl.” When I saw her address a conservative student organization at UC Berkeley a few years ago, she took pains to tell the audience that after feminists pressured the airlines to modify appearance guidelines for female flight attendants, “they all looked fat.” As a press account of her speech two years ago to an all-male group at the Citadel, a military college, reported, “She told the all-male group that ‘feminist is a bad word and everything they stand for is bad.'”

“Find out if your girlfriend is a feminist before you get too far into it,” she said. “Some of them are pretty. They don’t all look like Bella Abzug.” At the same event she said, “Feminists are having a hard time being elected because they essentially are unlikable.”

Though Schlafly’s influence has peaked, as has, apparently, her political savvy—what portion of contemporary Citadel cadets know who the late Bella Abzug was?—at one time, she did wield significant political power. Her most successful political venture was the Stop the Equal Rights Amendment campaign, which she led throughout the 1970s, when the measure was close to ratification by the requisite number of states. She also in the early ‘70s established the Eagle Forum, a national “pro-family” organization with numerous state chapters. In addition to the issues mentioned above, the organization has over the years taken strong stands against abortion, gay rights (despite having a gay son), and attempts at gender equality in public schools.

But, as her statement calling for a widening gender gap in wages suggests, not only has Schlafly’s moment passed as a credible leader—she and other younger conservative women leaders, trapped as they are by the Republican Party’s free-market ideology, simply are unable to address the economic realities facing women today. When Schlafly emerged as a political activist in the ’70s, there still existed the possibility for many American families to function on one man’s salary. Furthermore, a key message of the emergent women’s movement of that period—which urged women to pursue careers—was met defensively by those who were “just housewives,” to use a phrase of that period. So Schlafly’s messages, which glorify women who stay home, raise children, and support their husbands’ endeavors, deeply resonated with many.

But, to put it mildly, the world of 2014 is very different, in both economic terms and cultural ones, from that of the 1970s. The stagnation in wages for most American workers means that most families need two paychecks, where once one would have sufficed. And, of course, there has been a continual rise in single-parent households, the vast majority of which are headed by women. There now exist many more households, compared to the 1970s, of same-sex couples, many of which are composed of two women—not to mention single women, without children, who also could hardly be expected to endorse the idea of a widening gap between male and female pay.

But the most visible women in the contemporary Republican Party are as helpless as Schlafly in acknowledging these realities. Both Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the highest ranking Republican woman in the House, and “rising star” Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee have opposed raises in the minimum wage—though, much to observers’ amusement, the latter inadvertently made the case for a raise, failing to realize that her teenage years’ wage of $2.15 an hour, which she idealized in a speech opposing such a measure, in today’s dollars would be worth somewhere between $12.72 and $14.18.

In the lived reality of American women, reproductive issues and economic ones are deeply entwined. Women need access to reproductive services, among other reasons, to be able to participate in the paid labor force. And women, like their male counterparts, need jobs that pay a living wage. Phyllis Schlafly and the conservative spokeswomen who have followed her are woefully out of touch on both counts. Let’s hope that those who disagree with them show up for the midterm elections, as they did in 2012.

Commentary Media

College Women, Don’t Listen to Marriage Concern Trolls

Amanda Marcotte

Susan Patton may be the only person in the history of the world to get a book deal by being a crank who writes nutty letters to the editor. Her viral letter telling young women to get married in college is now being turned into a book, but that doesn't make her "advice" any less nutty.

Susan Patton may be the only person in the history of the world to get a book deal by being a crank who writes nutty letters to the editor. Back in March, Patton wrote a letter to the editor of the Daily Princetonian—both her sons went to Princeton—warning college women that they best find a husband before graduating college or, well, she didn’t exactly say they’d be dried-up old hags who would only have a handful of uneducated boors left to marry, but that was the general gist of it. (Her opinion of people who didn’t go to college, like her seeming opinions on most things, is very low and seems to be sourced solely from stereotypes instead of actually engaging with people, or else she would know that plenty of people who didn’t go to college are very bright and plenty of people who did are nonetheless dull.) The letter went viral, feeding off widespread cultural anxieties that young, well-educated women are shirking their duty to put men and marriage before their own ambitions, and so now she’s back with a book and an editorial in the Wall Street Journal.

The editorial covers the same ground that her original letter to the editor did: instructing college women to spend less time on their studies and fluffing their resumes and more time on husband-hunting. “You should be spending far more time planning for your husband than for your career—and you should start doing so much sooner than you think,” she writes, though notably she doesn’t really tell you what “planning for your husband” looks like. Maybe she gets around to that in her book, or maybe—and frankly, more likely—it’s because she doesn’t really have a good answer for that.

The closest she comes is to tell young women to “stop wasting time dating men who aren’t good for you: bad boys, crazy guys and married men,” demonstrating fairly conclusively that she pretty much has no idea what young women are up to these days, not that ignorance of women’s lives has ever stopped a sexist from feeling their opinion on any matter would be welcomed. Where is she getting this weird idea that your average college girl spends her time sleeping with married men? Or even “bad boys” or “crazy guys.” In reality, the college girls she’s yelling at are sleeping with basically the same men she wants them to marry. And they will eventually marry them—contrary to Patton’s dark predictions that college-educated women are practically un-marriageable, college-educated women are more not less likely to get married than their peers without bachelor’s degrees. It’s interesting how the “good guy” that every woman should be clamoring to marry suddenly turns into the “bad boy” that a woman is wasting time on if she dates him without any intention to marry any time soon.

But really, all this talk about wasting time on bad boys is merely to distract from the fact that Patton’s piece, like pretty much every conservative lecture to women to marry often and marry young, is based on a false premise: that women are single because they’re making an active choice to avoid committing to a relationship. When they snootily lecture low-income women and single mothers about the value of marriage, it’s particularly obnoxious because there’s no reason to believe that these women would reject being married if they had a chance to get married to a man they loved.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

With college women, the ground is slightly sturdier—it’s true that most women in college are not eager to get a ring on it as soon as possible—but giving it a moment’s thought should make the flaw in her reasoning more obvious. The problem here is that she assumes there’s some course of action college women could be taking that would net them a husband. Say a young woman decides to take Patton’s advice, and puts down those schoolbooks to start going out looking for a husband. What would that look like? What steps would she take? Going out to parties and meeting people? Going to classes where the college men are? Going out on dates? I guarantee that’s exactly what young women are already doing. There’s no reason to think that scaling back on the schoolwork will suddenly mean that the boys that you’re dating now start looking more like husbands. Nor would scaling back on schoolwork mean that you do a better job sussing out which of the guys around you are eager to get married. All she does is tell women to have less sex, which is the traditional conservative formula to turn errant young men into devoted husbands. (The assumption is that all men are misogynists who only put up with women in order to obtain sex, so you have to extract a higher “price”—having to spend, ick, time with you—from men in exchange for the sex. Why women should want people who hate them to marry them is never really explained.)  But spending less time on sex would free you up to study more, so that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

In the real world, most people—including college kids—tend to stick by someone if they fall in love and, if the relationship works out, they will eventually marry. Sure, there’s a lot of couples who met in college and who don’t marry for another decade, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t together and devoted the whole time. The reason women tend to marry someone they meet after college is not because they were too snooty to marry a classmate, but because the relationships they had while younger didn’t work out and the ones they created later did. Which is they way it should be—people are better off in healthy marriages than unhealthy ones.

I have my suspicions about why the “go get married, ladies!” lectures always ignore this reality. That’s because these articles aren’t really meant as sincere advice for single women. These articles are about perpetuating a nasty stereotype, trying to convince people that giving women access to financial independence and higher education has “ruined” them. The argument embedded in a piece like Patton’s is that sexual liberation and women’s equality are failed experiments because women are too silly and stupid to use their rights responsibly. The audience for a piece like this is not college women, who are unlikely to be reading the Journal. It’s a majority male, largely conservative audience that wants to hear that women’s precious freedoms need to be clipped for our own good. It’s a classic concern troll, and should be understood as nothing more than that. And if a mean-spirited relative gives you Patton’s book under the phony guise of “concern” about how you’re ruining your life by living so freely, ladies, I have some serious advice for you: Don’t feel bad about promptly tossing it in the trash. You have better things to do with your time, like studying.