A three-minute video clip about an 11-year-old Yemeni girl speaking out against child marriage after having escaped it herself has gone viral on the internet.
Nada Al Ahdal says in the video that she would rather die than be forced into marriage with an older man.
“It’s true that I ran away from my family. I can’t live with them anymore. Enough. I want to live with my uncle,” she says.
The video clip, subtitled in English by the Israeli-run Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has had more than seven million views since it was first posted on the insititute’s YouTube channel on July 21.
The girl says in the video that she had first fled to her uncle’s house but he was not there, which led her to head to a police station. She said she now wants to live with her uncle, but that her parents had threatened to kill her if she had tried to seek refuge with him.
“What kind of people threaten their children like that?” she questioned. “Go ahead and marry me off. I’ll kill myself,” she said.
She cited her maternal aunt’s story as an example. The aunt was married at the age of 14 but killed herself one year later by setting herself alight. “He [her husband] would beat her with metal chains. He would get drunk,” she said.
According to a report on Huffington Post, Nada’s uncle, Abdul Salam Al Ahdal, a montage and graphics technician at a TV station, has protected his niece from being married off twice. Nada’s parents first accepted an offer from a wealthy expatriate, but Al Ahdal intervened and told the prospective groom that Nada was not nearly modest enough for him, in order to “scare him off”, according to the report.
“When I heard about the groom, I panicked,” he said. “Nada was not even 11 years old; she was exactly 10 years and 3 months. I could not allow her to be married off and have her future destroyed.”
Nada also argues that while she was able to solve her problem by fleeing her home and going to the police station, other children may not have the same opportunities. Other children “might die, commit suicide, or do whatever comes to mind”.
Although, child marriage is not common in Nigeria, recent deliberation in Nigeria’s Senate showed the Section 29 (4)(b) of the 1999 constitution gives room for it.
The clause, which states “Any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age,” clearly accommodates underage marriage.
Despite the section up for amendment having to do with persons qualified to renounce Nigerian citizenship, and not the issue of underage marriage, comments have shown Nigerians are divided along religious lines on the issues, with many arguing it is ethical in Islam.
Several other Muslims however disagree and the controversy is still on, with many rights group calling for the deletion of the clause which they say accommodates the act of ‘perverts’ who marry girls younger than their daughters.