The Los Angeles Times reports today on a 10-year-old girl from Yemen who successfully divorced her husband, a man in his mid-30s, after suffering physical and sexual abuse.
The girl's father, fearing death if he dishonored his family by asking for a divorce, refused to intervene on his daughter's behalf. The groom had apparently promised not to touch the girl, Nujood Ali, until she reached puberty.
Determined, Ali took matters into her own hands. She borrowed bus money from a sympathetic aunt and arrived at a courthouse in the Yemeni capital, Sana, last April to request a divorce.
Though it's illegal to marry before the age of 15 in Yemen, the court forced Ali to pay approximately $250 (a generous lawyer paid the sum--equivalent to what a poor Yemeni would earn in four months) to her now ex-husband. Yemen lacks a law that prosecutes sexual abuse within a marriage, so though the union was technically illegal, no charges were ultimately brought against the man, who claims Ali's father said she was older, taller and better looking when he agreed to marry the girl.
Shada Nasser, a human rights lawyer and leading Yemeni women's rights activists, helped bring international attention to Ali's case. Sympathizers from around the world have reached out to offer money and educational assistance to the 10 year old, who is contentedly back under her parents' roof. According to the Times, she wants to live like a normal child again, but now dreams of becoming a lawyer, like Nasser, "to be an example for all the other girls."
Ali's case has prompted other underage brides in Yemen to come forward and push for their own divorces.