Yemen

    Some of Yemen’s most influential Islamic leaders, including one the U.S. says mentored Osama bin Laden, have declared supporters of a ban on child brides to be apostates. The religious decree, issued this past weekend, deeply imperils efforts to salvage legislation that would make it illegal for those under the age of 17 to marry. The practice is widespread in Yemen and has been particularly hard to discourage in part because of the country’s gripping poverty — bride-prices in the hundreds of dollars are especially difficult for poor families to pass up. More than a quarter of Yemen’s females marry before age 15, according to the Social Affairs Ministry. A February 2009 law set the minimum age for marriage at 17, but it was repealed and sent back to parliament’s constitutional committee for review after some lawmakers called it un-Islamic. The committee is expected to make a final decision on the legislation next month. Some of the clerics who signed Sunday’s decree sit on the committee. (AP)

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