Friday, November 14, 2008

Nujood Ali: 10-yr-old Named Glamour Woman of the Year

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A Full Life Thus Far for Nujood Ali:
10-Year-Old Filed for Divorce in Yemen
Then Named Glamour "Woman of the Year"

[ABOVE: Nujood Ali, accented in yellow, and Shada Nasser, Esq., leave the stage after being honored at the Glamour Women of the Year awards.]

Nujood Ali: Glamour Woman Of The Year

On November 10, 2008 Nujood Ali was named Glamour Magazines Woman of the Year. There were nine other award-winners, but there was, in fact, only one winner.

And she was 10 years old.

Raised in rural Yemen, Nujood had never seen the sea. As a second-grader, she dreamed of being a sea turtle and dressing up in yellow dresses, that being her favorite color.

One day, she was abruptly dragged from class by her father, who transported her to his impoverished village--a hellhole he had left years before. But now, the burden of caring for his two wives and 16 (some stories say 19) children was a bit too much for this devout Muslim.

So he sold his daughter into marriage. (Oh, and as a side note, he complained he was never paid.) The pig of a father, Ali Muhammad ai-Ahdal, managed to find a willing husband, a part time bicycling deliveryman of 30 years, the fair Faez Ali Thamer.

"Their first night together, Nujood's husband took off her clothes and she ran out of the room. He caught her, brought her back to the bedroom, raped her and beat her. She had not been given a talk to explain what marriage is, what it is to be a wife and what sex is. Nujood was 10 years old."

Yemen is a barbaric, Islamic, dust bowl. It is one of two Islamic nations that boasts it has no citizens other than Muslims. The few Jews, Bahais, and Christians that still reside in this dump are arrested, executed or deported.

Although the law states that females may not marry until they are 15-years-old, the average bride in Yemen is 12-years-old. Marriage of 8-year-olds is common.

In the kindly Islamic manner the world is all to familiar with, sexual abuse, beating, and torture of women is not only tolerated, but encouraged by fundamentalists.

In the words of one commenter, "This system benefits no one but the husband's sick fantasies."

The purposeful dis-education, prepubescent rape and sexual abuse, starvation, beatings, and subjugation of females has resulted in alarming statistics. Yemen has the highest maternity death rate in the world. The women are physically the most decrepit. The literacy rate of women is among the lowest in the world.

So what Nujood did next is unheard of.

When she and her lovely husband were in Sana, Nujood complained to her father that she had been raped, forced to do bad things, and beaten; marriage, it seemed, was not for her. Her father told her that she was wrong. Likewise her mother(s).

But a kindly Uncle who enjoyed this precocious child was more sympathetic and told Nujood about divorce and that judges had the right to set aside a marriage. Her aunt, no doubt encouraged by her husband's attitude, snuck Nujood the cab fare and address to the courthouse.

So, Nujood walked in and took a seat at a bench.

Occasionally she would ask for a judge but was informed that court affairs were in progress and she must wait. Court staff assumed she was accompanied by an adult. As the court cleared for lunch, a Judge of the court, having noted her presence and having been informed by staff that a young girl sought his attention, approached her and asked what brought her to his courthouse?

Nujood explained that she had to get a divorce. That she had been married, beaten, and raped some months before. In most courts in Yemen she would have been sent home or even arrested.

But in this case the Judge started crying.

He took her home to his family where she would be safe. He introduced her to his daughter to make her comfortable. Then he issued arrest warrants on both the father and husband (who then turned on each other and excused their behavior as that of honest, proud Muslims). When Nujood was safe by the imprisonment of the two, he put Nujood with her kindly Uncle and Aunt.

Then he assisted in getting Nujood the services of a female civil rights attorney, Shada Nasser. That resulted in the media getting wind of the story. As for her age and sexual mistreatment--normally both factors that result in a name being withheld and the story being suppressed--Nujood had a succinct answer: "I passed though that".

On April 2, 2008, Nujood's divorce case was heard.

The court was crowded with reporters, as this was the first time they were seeing a case like this. The judge simply asked the young girl, "Do you want a separation, or a permanent divorce?"

"A permanent divorce," she responded.

He immediately granted it.

[ABOVE: Yemeni Girls Preparing For Marriage]

Publicity surrounding Nujood's case prompted calls to raise the legal age for marriage to 18 for both men and women.

Yemen's conservative lawmakers refused to take up the issue. But the case sparked public discussion and newspaper headlines.

Several more child brides came forward, including a girl who sought a divorce last week in the southern city of Ibb.

"This case opened the door," Nasser says.

"All I want now is to finish my education," she adds, her mouth curling into a smile. "I want to be a lawyer."

by pat
images: bbsnews

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