An eight-year-old Yemeni girl has died of internal bleeding on her wedding night after marrying a man old enough to be her father, a social activist and two local residents said, in a case that has caused an outcry in the media and revived debate about child brides.
Arwa Othman, head of Yemen's House of Folklore and a leading rights campaigner, said the girl, identified as Ilham Mahdi al Assi, was married to a 40-year-old late last week in the town of Meedi in Hajjah province, north-western Yemen.
"On the wedding night and after intercourse, she suffered from bleeding and uterine rupture which caused her death," Othman said .
"They took her to a clinic but the medics couldn't save her life."
Othman said authorities had not taken any action against the girl's family or her husband.
A security official in the provincial town of Haradh denied any such incident had taken place. He did not want to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the press.
But two Meedi residents contacted by Reuters confirmed the incident and said tribal chiefs had tried to cover up the incident when the news broke, warning a local journalist against covering the story.
Many poor families in Yemen marry off young daughters to save on the costs of bringing up a child and earn extra money from the dowry given to the girl.
A United Nation's report released in January revealed the extent of the country's poverty, saying that 10.5 million of Yemen's 24 million people lacked sufficient food supplies, and 13 million had no access to safe water and basic sanitation.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Yemen in December 2011 to ban marriages of girls under 18, warning it deprived child brides of education and harmed their health.