Adonis Diaries

Child brides in Yemen. Take a look and read the interview

Posted on: May 24, 2013


Child brides in Yemen. Take a look and read the interview

Every day around the world, around 39,000 girls – children like Tahani and Ghada – get married

Tahani got married when she was six and was a wife in the full sense of the word. She had not reached puberty so hadn’t had kids yet, but this was expected as soon as she was able to.

Ghada is the sister of Tahani’s husband, Majed. She was still living with her family, though, and attending school, since her father felt she was too young to live with her husband.

 interviewed Stephanie Sainclair in The Guardian this May 22, 2013:

I have been to many countries to document the issue of child brides: India, Nepal, Afghanistan, Ethiopia.

It was important to cover Yemen because it is so prevalent there – in fact, it is considered normal. Some people in their communities, however, want it to stop, and this project was only able to happen because of them.

This shot shows two child brides in rural Yemen with their husbands. Tahani, the girl in pink, is eight; her husband Majed is 27. Ghada, in green, is also eight, while her husband Saltan is 33.

Stephanie Sinclair's photograph of child brides in Yemen View larger picture

‘The image works because the girls opened up to me’ … Stephanie Sinclair’s photograph of child brides in Yemen. Click to enlarge

I met the child wives twice in 2010, when I was in the country for National Geographic.

The first time they were without their husbands: they were just little girls, sweet and forthcoming, and  excited. I was there and wanting to hang out. I decided to shoot two couples to show that this huge age disparity wasn’t a one-off.

Both of the men are in the Yemeni military and were working, so I had to wait for them to return.

When I finally met them, it was noon and the light was really bad. I scoped out the location, then waited until it got very overcast. I moved them around a little and took 50 frames in 15 minutes. They were all amenable.

I didn’t tell either girl what expression to have. I don’t think they had any idea that the rest of the world would see their marriages as wrong – but somehow I felt they knew that I was there out of concern.

The image works because the girls opened up to me: Tahani, especially, has a look in her eyes. They are communicating to us in a different way than their husbands, who clearly feel no shame.

Looking at it, you know at once that the men are their husbands and not their fathers.

My visit started a campaign: we got a local doctor and midwives to come and discuss health issues for girls…

That if they get pregnant too young, their bodies and their children may have problems. They may even die. The community agreed to stop the next wedding.

Stephanie Sinclair’s work is at (Too Young to Wed campaign)

Born: 1973, Miami.

Studied: Journalism with photography at the University of Florida.

Influences: Eugene Richards: his work has an intimacy and brilliance that is beyond compare.

High point: Being part of the Too Young to Wed campaign, which policymakers around the world are responding to.

Low point: The colleagues I’ve lost over the years in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

Top tip: Be versatile. Listen to your heart about what you respond to and make projects that matter to you.


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May 2013

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