Forced into marriage when she was only 13, Saadah is now back in her impoverished Yemeni family’s cramped home with two children, little money and has dreams of returning to school.
“Child brides,” or “death brides” as they are sometimes called, are quite common in poor, tribal Yemen, where barely pubescent girls are forced into marriage, often to much older men.
Saadah’s ill father, no longer able to sustain his family, married her off five years ago. But her husband soon began forcing her to beg on the capital’s streets with her boys until she fled back to her parents’ home.
“He would beat and verbally abuse me and my family,” says Saadah, now 18, whose name means happiness in Arabic. Her two boys, aged three and four, look on as she recounts the nightmare of her marriage.
Her 16-year-old sister Amnah was also forced to marry, and wed a man who agreed to pay her father’s US$93 worth of debt three years ago.
She was also abused by her husband before she escaped after just five months with him. “He once put a dagger to my stomach and dragged me out of my parents’ house. He then beat me on the street in front of everyone before taking me back to his house,” she recalls.