Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I am 10 and Divorced - Book Review



Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world. It is also one of the most traditional and in Yemen the Islam religion reigns supreme. Noone can even try to mess with tradition. Not even the yemeni government.

In 2008 Nujood Ali was a 10 years old girl - one of 12 mouths to feed in a poor family. her father was unemployed and in 2006 (when Nujood was 8) a scandal erupted which forced the family to flee their home village and move to Sana'a - the capital of Yemen. The scandal later turned out to be one of Hujood's older sisters having been kidnapped by a man who wanted her as his bride.

In Sana'a Nujood's father got a job but was unhappy and eventually lost the job when he was continually absent.

In 2008 when Nujood was roughly aged 10 (she never knew exactly when her birthday was) she was married off to a man aged in his 30s who was also from their home village.

In Yemen girls were not supposed to be getting married until one year after they became a woman - one year after their menses began. But tradition meant that some girls were married earlier provided the men promised to NOT be intimate with their child brides at least until they had had their first menses. Unfortunately it seems that Yemeni men cannot keep their promises.

Nujood was taken back to her home village and then forced to keep house, cook the food, and do all the dirty jobs that her new mother in law no longer wanted to do. The husband also raped her as well. He had promised Nujood's father that he would wait until she became a woman. He lied.

The wife of the head of the family does not have any power in the house. His mother (who was now her mother in law) hold all the power and Nujoods mother in law treated her like dirt.

Eventually Nujood was allowed to visit her family in Sana'a and after her "step mother" (her fathers second wife) told her to try the courts, she decided that she had had enough of being raped every night. So when Nujood was sent out to buy bread one day, instead of buying bread, she went to the court house and asked to speak to a judge. she ended up waiting all day and wasn't noticed until the end of the business day.

When she was asked what she wanted by a kind looking man - she told him that she wanted a divorce. He was shocked that she was already married and already having sexual relations at such a young age.

She was sent to stay with another family for her own protection. She even got her own lawyer - a Yemeni woman named Shada Nasser - who was an activist for women's rights in Yemen.

Nujood went back to live with her family where her father and older brothers were ashamed that she had publicly embarrassed the family. Nujood also went back to school.

Eventually when Nujood's case came up in court, she stated that he beat her and had sexual relations with her despite the fact that her menses had not yet begun. The judge asked her if she was willing to go back to him after a break of 3 to 5 years. She said NO.

The judge granted the divorce and Nujood became a celebrity. Several more girls in the same situation have since asked for divorces from their much older spouses. One of these girls lives in Saudi Arabia.

Nujood now lives with her family and is back in school. The royalties from the book are helping the family. She also has an international sponsor who pays the school fees, books and uniforms for both Nujood and her sister.

The Yemeni government has tried to change the legal age for women to age 15, but some powerful  members of government are opposed and so the law has not been passed. 

This was an interesting book. I enjoyed it very much and read it in just a few hours.

New York Times Op-ed

Glamour Article Page 1

Glamour Article Page 2

Glamour Article Page 3

Nujood in Wikipedia

1 comment:

Violette Severin said...

I heard about this book on the news. If she is bold enough to demand a divorce at 10, imagine what she can do when she gets older and educated.