Yemeni lawyer battles tradition and opposition to end child marriage

Najud is a 10 year old Yemeni girl who made world headlines by winning a divorce case, ending her marriage to a man in his thirties who had abused her physically and sexually. Her lawyer Shada Mohammed Nasser (pictured with Najud), is a woman on a mission to end the practice of child marriage in Yemen.

Speaking to IRIN Radio reporter, Anne Sophie Flamand, Shada Nasser said, “It is not easy because sometimes you meet a not good judge who can refuse this case. And it has happened to us with Reem and the Judge refused to give her the divorce, and he is the same one who gave Najud the divorce. And I understand this time the Judge he has a lot of pressure from extremist people, from this point he refused to give Reem the divorce like he did Najud.”

When asked if she was worried about going up against some very powerful people who want to continue the tradition of child marriage in Yemen, Shada Nasser said she isn’t afraid.

“Sometimes I think about them. But I take care and I pray and I ask Allah to protect me and to protect my children.”

Despite opposition from conservatives, there is talk in Yemen about raising the legal marriage age for girls to 17 or 18. But Shada Nasser says it would take more than just a change in the law to end the practice of child marriages in her country.

“It would not stop because the people who write these marriage contracts they are not sometimes following the system, or the parents they put the age of the girl down as 20 when she is 15 or 12,” she said.

“Another point is we need to put a punishment article against the father and the husband and the judge. Because if they know there is very strong punishment against them, they would not think about marrying a girl until she is 17 or 18.”

Although Shada Nasser has won the respect of many of her fellow countrymen and women, she also faces a barrage of criticism from Yemen’s conservative media.

“Sometimes they write that I am working with some organizations working against Yemen. But I am special. I believe in these children and in human rights, and I look for a new future for Yemen. Why? Because I am a mother and I have a daughter who is the same age like Najud. I compare between Najud and my daughter. How my daughter she goes to school, she learns French language at home, she goes to ballet school, she has her piano and she is playing. She has in one word her life, like a child and I compare between Najud and my daughter.”

“And when I support them, I don’t support them because I want to be a famous woman. No, I support all these girls because I believe in their lives. And I ignore all the people and what they say about me.”

Source: United Nations Radio

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