SANAA (Reuters) - Yemeni authorities are investigating the death of an eight-year-old girl from internal bleeding on her wedding night and will prosecute those responsible, the government said on Friday, a case that has rekindled international outrage over child brides.
Yemeni rights campaigner Arwa Othman said earlier this week that the girl, identified as Rawan, died after intercourse that ruptured her uterus following her wedding to a man five times her age. Residents in the town of Meedi in Hajjah province in northwestern Yemen confirmed the incident.
Othman said no action had been taken against the man.
“The government (of Yemen) is dealing seriously with this issue and it will investigate it and those responsible will be brought to justice,” Rajeh Badi, an aide to Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa, told Reuters.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton urged the Sanaa authorities on Friday to investigate the case “without delay and to prosecute all those responsible for this crime”.
In a statement, she said the Arabian Peninsula country should reinstate a law setting a minimum age for marriage.
Many poor families in Yemen marry off young daughters to save on the costs of bringing up a child and earn extra money from the dowry given to a girl.
According to the United Nations around half of Yemen’s 24 million people lack sufficient food and access to safe water.
Under international norms such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, every person regardless of their age must give their consent before they can be married.
Human Rights Watch previously urged Yemen’s government to ban marriages of girls under the age of 18. It said nearly 14 percent of Yemeni girls were married before the age of 15 and 52 percent before the age of 18. HRW said many Yemeni child brides-to-be are kept from school when they reach puberty.
The European Union spends some 60 million euros ($79.85 million) a year on aid to Yemen. ($1 = 0.7514 euros)
Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari in Sanaa and Claire Davenport in Brussels; Editing by Mark Heinrich