The news of 13 year-old Illham al Assi’s murder, as a result of the complete destruction of her genitals from rape and fatal bleeding (according to the medical report), which the Arab Sisters Forum for Human Rights (Yemen) reported, has led to an uproar that reveals the depths of the moral decay of those who defend child rape by calling it ‘marriage.’

The Sisters Forum, which has been following this issue, said that the child died three days after her marriage and had been married off under what is known as an exchange marriage. In an exchange marriage, the girl goes to the husband’s family and the husband’s sister marries someone in the girl’s family.

A statement issued by the Sisters Forum on April 7th, 2010 stated that “Illham is a martyr to the futility of children’s lives in Yemen and a blatant example of what advocates describe as the fatal affects on girls of not setting forth a specific marriage age. Therefore, it is necessary that this child has become a symbol confirming the ugliness of this crime and the danger that young girls face due to early marriages.”

The Syrian Women Observatory stands in solidarity with our colleagues at the Sisters Forum, and emphasizes that the marriage of girls and boys under the age of 18 is a clear violation of children’s rights, and destroys their lives in every possible respect. This kind of marriage also creates a society ravaged from the inside no matter how coherent it seems from the outside. How can a child in the 21st century be ready for the responsibility that the complex institution of marriage demands? How can the tender body of a child bear all the health and psychological effects of marriage?

The rape of young girls in the name of marriage is an act that should be recognized as criminal under the law in every country and there should be severe punishments leveled against the mothers and fathers of all of these young boys and girls who are married off and the punishment should be even more severe when the child’s age is younger. Families who trade their children need to pay for their crimes committed against the rights of children, regardless of the usual excuses like “customs and traditions” or the like. 

SWO, 9/4/2010, (The Syrian Women Observatory Stands in solidarity with “Illham al Assi”, a Victim of Child Rape Condoned Under the Guise of Marriage)

Translated by Liz Broadwin

source.. (Arabic)