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'My Husband Treated Me As A Sex Object' Child Bride Who Was Married At The Age Of 11 Speaks Out

A child bride from Yemen who was forced to marry her distant cousin at the age of 11 has spoken out about the experience.

According to reports, Noora Al Shami was given away to her violent husband and she ended up suffering violent and shocking sexual abuse for over 10 years. She was forced into the marriage by her parents because they do not want her to live in poverty.


To celebrate the union, Shami was very excited as she was the centre of attention at a lavish three-day wedding party in the port city of Al Hudaydah where she was allowed to wear ‘three really beautiful dresses’ for each day.

But things changed as soon as the celebrations ended:

‘It was at the end of the wedding that the fear and horror set in”

‘He was three times my age and saw marriage as a means to act like a depraved animal.’

She talked about how ‘immediately began to quiver and cry’ when she was driven to the house her husband shared with his father.

When her new first took off his clothes, she ran away in terror and desperately avoided sex for 10 days.

And when she was eventually pressured into consummating the marriage, she said her body went into shock and she was rushed to hospital.

She added that she was being ‘treated like a sex object’ without anyone to save her because she was ‘legally his wife’.

Noora, now 35, talks about how she ended up having 2 miscarriages in a year before finally giving birth to her first son when she was 13, a daughter a year later, and then another boy at age 15.

She said her husband hit her every chance she get while she was pregnant.

He even went on to abuse the children as one time, he bang one of her sons (aged 2) on the floor by her feet forcing her to need hospital treatment for bleeding.

Eventually, a decade after her wedding in 1989, she sought refuge with a project run by Oxfam and the Yemei’s Women’s Union which helps victims of domestic violence.

She said:

‘I managed to get a lawyer and then filed for divorce. But after getting divorced, I faced a new reality.

‘Who would feed my three children and take care of my elderly parents? I had to find a job and worked as a maid while I was studying for my high school diploma. My neighbours used to harass me and say I was a bad woman for getting divorced.

‘As a Yemeni woman, I faced many challenges, but I had to stay strong and fight to improve my situation.

‘I started to tell people about the psychological and physical impact child marriage had upon me. I miscarried twice due to the abuse, and I was lucky to survive.’

Noora, whose mother married at nine and was divorced a year later, is now lobbying the Sana’a parliament to bring in legislation to end the plight of child marriages.

She said:

‘During the dialogue, I had the opportunity to visit parliament to push for a law setting eighteen as a safe minimum age of marriage.

‘This law has been raised many times in Yemen, but has never been approved by the government. I’m currently lobbying to ensure the rights of women and children are included in the new constitution.

‘Many Yemeni women still lack understanding about their rights and entitlements, and even educated women are afraid to speak out. We need civil society organisations to carry out awareness campaigns about the impact of child marriage in rural and urban areas to empower women.

‘I want to make my voice heard and change the lives of women in Yemen. Women shouldn’t have to be victims. I suffered domestic violence but now I’m speaking out.

‘I refuse to live under the ruins of my past.”

Noora’s story also comes weeks after unconfirmed reports emerged that an eight-year-old child bride died of internal injuries on her wedding night.

The Yemeni girl called Rawan allegedly died after being forced into marrying a man five times her age, however recent reports have suggested she is still alive.


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