Yemeni children. Creative Commons

An 8-year-old Yemeni girl died of internal bleeding on her wedding night after marrying a man five times her age, a social activist and two local residents said. The girl, identified only as Rawan, is believed to have suffered tearing of her genitals and a uterine rupture. Activists are now calling for the groom, who is believed to be around 40 years old, and her family to be arrested so they can face justice in the courts.

"On the wedding night and after intercourse, she suffered from bleeding and uterine rupture which caused her death," Arwa Othman, head of Yemen House of Folklore and a leading rights campaigner told Reuters. "They took her to a clinic but the medics couldn't save her life." A local security official in the provincial town of Haradh, Yemen, denied any such incident had taken place. He did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

However, two residents of Meedi, a Hajjah province in northwestern Yemen, contacted by Reuters confirmed the incident and said that local tribal chiefs had tried to cover up the incident when news first broke, warning a local journalist against covering the story.

The practice of marrying young girls is widespread in Yemen and has attracted the attention of international rights groups seeking to pressure the government to outlaw child marriages. More than a quarter of Yemen's females marry before age 15, according to a report in 2010 by the Social Affairs Ministry. Parents force their little girls to go through an arranged marriage at a young age in exchange of hundreds of dollars because they need the money to live by.

Yemen once tried to stop the common practice setting 15 as the minimum age for marriage, but parliament annulled that law in the 1990s, saying parents should decide when a daughter marries. The Yemen government tried again and instituted an age minimum of 17 for marriage in 2009, but the new law has been deemed by many in rural areas as "un-Islamic." The country's parliament plans to review the law this month for a final decision.

On Monday and Tuesday, local bloggers in Yemen continued to express outrage, according to media reports. "All those who supported such a crime should also be punished," a blogger wrote under the pseudonym "Sad." "It was not fair at all and the marriage should not have happened even if some tribes believe that it is a good custom." Another blogger identified as "Angry Man" posted the husband is "an animal who deserved to be punished severely for his crime." "All those who supported such a crime should also be punished," he added.

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