Girls can marry at the age of nine, should ideally have husbands by 16 or 17 and should not be corrupted by going to work, according to a treatise published by female Islamic State supporters in Iraq and Syria.
In Yemen, a similar picture. Tehani and Ghada are sisters-in-law photographed with their husbands, who are both members of the military. Like most of the girls, Tehani didn’t even know she was getting married, until the wedding night. She was six years old.
Tehani describes how she entered the marriage, “They were decorating my hands, but I didn’t know they were going to marry me off. Then my mother came in and said, ‘Come on my daughter.’ They were dressing me up and I was asking, ‘Where are you taking me?’”
Sinclair says, “This harmful, traditional practice of child marriage is just so embedded in some of these cultures that the families don’t protect them as they should.”
The subjects do know they’re being photographed and Sinclair tells them the topic she is working on. She does tell them that there is teen pregnancy in places like the U.S., but for the societies she’s photographing it’s even worse that 13-year-old girls are pregnant and unmarried.
Nujoud Ali, two years after her divorce – when she was only eight years old – from her husband, more than 20 years her senior.
Nujoud Ali, two years after her divorce in Yemen – when she was only ten years old – from her husband, more than 20 years her senior.
Another one of the photographs Sinclair took is of a Yemeni girl named Nujood Ali. In a rare turn of events, Ali managed to get a divorce at age 10.
“A couple months after she was married, she went to the court and found a lawyer – a woman named Shada Nasser and asked her to help her get a divorce, and she was granted [it],” Sinclair says. “It’s definitely rare and Nujood became kind of an international symbol of child marriage, because she was able to do this. And I think she’s inspired a lot of other girls and other organizations to support these girls, to have a stronger voice.”
Sinclair has documented the practice outside of the Muslim world. In a Christian community in Ethiopia, she captured the image of a 14 year-old girl named Leyualem in a scene that looks like an abduction. Leyualem was whisked away on a mule with a sheet covering up her face. Sinclair asked the groomsmen why they covered her up; they said it was so she would not be able to find her way back home, if she wanted to escape the marriage.