Marriage and Divorce Decisions

Marriage and Divorce …
Decisions of Free Will & Conscious Choice?

Aftermath of the Nujood Ali Divorce.

As we honor the 99th anniversary of International Women’s Day this month, I’

m reminded of the story of Nujood Ali, the 10 year old girl in Yemen who made world headlines over a year ago by becoming the youngest known divorced person in the world.

When Nujood was only 8 years old, her father sold her off to marriage to a 30 year old motorcycle delivery man. The groom ignored instructions to abstain from sex until Nujood reached puberty, and he forced himself on her on their wedding night, and allegedly beat and raped her every day since then. In April 2008, two months after the wedding, she escaped and found her way to the courthouse to request a divorce. Shada Nasser, a female human rights attorney, took sympathy and handled her divorce case for free. The divorce was granted by the local judge. Nujood’s father and ex-husband were subsequently arrested for underage marriage, but both were released within 10 days.

In Yemen, girls as young as 15 years old could be legally married. Sex is prohibited until the bride becomes “mature.” (Hmm … How do they enforce that?) More than 50% of Yemeni brides are less than 18 years old, often as second and third wives to much older men. (Similar situations exist in other impoverished areas such as South Asia.) Since Nujood Ali’s case, the Yemen government has raised the minimum marriage age from 15 to 18 years old. Her case has also sparked a wave of other married children in the Mideast who have come forward to seek divorce, including an 8 year old girl in Saudi Arabia.

It’s amazing to know that in the 21st century, women around the world are still subjected to this type of treatment. Why do so many governments and religious institutions allow such legalized pedophilia and sex slavery? Marriage should be based on free will and conscious choice. It should be a long-term partnership based on love and deep commitment between two mature, informed, and consenting adults, don’t you agree?

We’re very fortunate to be free of such institutionalized oppression in the U.S. But even in this country, lots of people get married for convenience and economic reasons, and not true love. Sometimes they learn to love and respect each other after they marry. That’s okay. If both partners make the marriage decision freely as a conscious choice, it can still work out.

Many years later, if you find yourselves growing apart, ask yourself if you’re still in the marriage by choice, or if you’re feeling stuck or trapped. Freedom comes when you realize you have the power to choose how you want to live your life. And sometimes, making the conscious choice to leave a marriage, get divorced, and reinvent yourself can be the most empowering choice you’ve ever made. Divorce could be a step toward a happier, more fulfilling next stage of life!

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