Marriage: thousands of dollars buys a wife and her citizenship
He knows who he wants to marry. But so far, he hasn’t been able to afford the cost of marriage, and so they are not engaged.
“When I proposed to her, her family welcomed me, but they asked for a $40,000 dowry because she has an American citizenship,” he said.
Ali said the high dowry has forced him to give up the idea of marriage until his financial situation improves.
He is not the only one in Yemen who experiences this problem.
“I paid a $35,000 dowry, and I saw my wife only on the wedding day,” Abdulnasser Al-Rifi, a Yemeni youth, said.
“Marriage is an agreement between the groom and the bride’s father,” Al-Rifi said. “It is for the bride’s citizenship and the ability to travel and work in America.”
A citizenship marriage is a marriage where a man marries a Yemeni woman with U.S. or other foreign citizenship, for the purpose of gaining the same citizenship as his future wife. It’s a common occurrence in the governorate of Ibb, where many American-Yemenis originally hail.
Ma’moon Al-Bana, a resident of Ibb, said that “dowries are high in Ibb because only a few girls have American citizenship. Girls become goods that can be sold.”
“It is like an open market,” Fawaz Abdo, another resident of Ibb, said. “The dowries of girls who have citizenships are $40,000 minimum and maximum $80,000. A friend of mine paid $80,000 for dowry and is now living in America.”
An opportunity to be seized
Some fathers only consider the financial prospects offered when someone proposes to their daughters. They don’t pay attention to the daughters’ future.
“Fathers care about money and ignore their daughters’ wishes,” Qaed Nasser, an authority on marriage, said. ”This causes social problems as well as psychological disorders for girls.
“The bride knows that her husband doesn’t love her and that he paid a dowry of $40,000 only to marry her for American citizenship. He will go there, work there, marry someone else that he actually loves, and all this will cause stress and problems for her.
“Greediness changed marriage into a matter of buying and selling. The high cost of marriage made many young men stop thinking of getting married and increased spinsterhood rates among Yemeni women,” Nasser said.
The story of a woman with a citizenship
Afaf, a Yemeni woman who has American citizenship, said, “I’m alone and sad. Many female friends of mine got married and are happy now. My citizenship has prevented me from choosing the husband I want because my father asks for a high dowry.”
Studies suggest rates of spinsterhood increase in Yemen as a result of the high cost of marriage and unemployment. Moreover, some girls refuse to marry, preferring to pursue their education.
A 2009 survey focusing on family and marriage affairs conducted by the Mojtama Foundation found that, at the time, the rate of unmarried women between the ages of 30 and 49 was 11 percent.