10% of marriages include minors, poverty is to blame — expert

child marriages
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AMMAN — Despite efforts by NGOs and activists, yearly, some 10 to 11 percent of marriages in the Kingdom involve minors, according to Hadeel Abdel Aziz, founding member and Executive Director of the Justice Center for Legal Aid.اضافة اعلان

In 2018, the minimum marriage age was set at 18, with legal exceptions being made for those aged 16–18.

Requests for exemption are made and “95 percent of the requests get accepted”, Abdel Aziz told Jordan News, “which, according to laws, should get permission from a Sharia Court”.

Rola Sawalqah, associate professor of clinical and social psychology, told Jordan News that “the reasons for minors’ marriages vary from one city to another, but poverty and unemployment are major factors.”

“In Amman, poverty is the main reason minors marry. It is a serious factor from which several social problems arise,” she added.

“Many poor families encourage their minor daughters to get married, for them to alleviate the economic burden. Also, traditions play an essential role in some villages across the country on this issue,” she said.

Other factors that contribute to the rise of marriages among minors are “the quality of education and the low levels of awareness”, Sawalqah said.

To address the issue, she believes that “providing realistic solutions would be much more efficient than imposing further laws or amending legislation”.

“I was wearing my school uniform and carrying my schoolbag when I went to the court to register my marriage contract,” said Yasmeen, an alias, remembering her marriage at a young age.

“I was very happy and naïve. I thought it would be fun to be a bride and put on a wedding dress,” she told Jordan News.

“I lost my chance of having a proper education and marriage, but now I am doing my best to protect my 18-year-old sister and my children,” she told Jordan News.

Yasmeen said that “the hard economic situation of her family and the problems that her parents had were the main reasons she said yes to marriage.”

According to UNICEF, child marriages increased following the influx of Syrian refugees into the Kingdom.

A recent UNICEF study on child marriage across the Middle East and North Africa region shows that while rates of child marriage are in steady decline, and have been below global averages, conflict in the region threatens this progress.

The report warns that even national data showing low levels of child marriage may mask much higher rates within sub-populations, particularly those affected by conflict in the region. Data from Jordan indicates that this is the case, with studies from UNICEF and the Higher Population Council showing that the proportion of all registered Syrian marriages in Jordan which include a child have risen from 12 percent in 2011, to 34.6 percent in 2015. The proportion of marriages that include a child across other groups in Jordan have remained fairly static.

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