Yemeni authorities say they are investigating the reported death of an eight-year-old girl from internal bleeding on the first night of her marriage, in 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 she was married to a man five times her age who then had intercourse with her, rupturing her uterus.
Othman said no action has been taken against the man.
The government 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, said on Friday:”The government is dealing seriously with this issue and it will investigate it and those responsible will be brought to justice.”
He had earlier said that the crime had not been confirmed, and that police had not reported such an incident.
Ahmed al-Quraishi, chairman of child rights’ organisation Siyaj told the AFP news agency that residents from the girl’s home province of Hajjah said she and her family disappeared shortly after the incident.
Some people in the area said the girl was married to the man who took her to a hotel, and that she died on the wedding night from bleeding caused by sexual intercourse.
However, a security official in the area told activists investigating the case that the girl and her father were being held by police, without giving any details, Quraishi said.
Activists also discovered that Rawan’s father had another daughter aged 10, who is also married.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton urged Yemen’s authorities to prosecute all those responsible for the reported crime without delay.
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.