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 din’t 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 she ‘immediately began to quiver and cry’ when she was driven to the house her husband shared with his father.
When her new husband 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 at every slight mistake, disregarding her as a child.
He even went on to abuse the children at a time, he banged 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.
‘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.