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Activists plan lobbying effort ahead of Personal Status Law vote

By Rana Husseini - Mar 27,2019 - Last updated at Mar 27,2019

AMMAN — The women’s movement on Wednesday said it plans to lobby MPs ahead of their expected joint session with the Upper House to vote on the amendments to the Personal Status Law (PSL).

The women’s movement is mainly concerned with two articles related to early marriage and the “mandated will” or “wasiya wajiba”.

The Lower House voted to maintain the legal age of marriage exceptions for boys and girls at 15 years old late last year.

But on Wednesday, the Senate’s Legal Committee upheld its previous decision to increase the age of marriage for women in exceptional cases to 16 years old.

The Legal Committee also amended an article related to the “mandated will” or “wasiya wajiba”, by giving inheritance rights to the grandchildren of female children, as well as male children, a right that was previously only given to male grandchildren.

“We are content with the Senate Legal Committee’s [decision] to maintain its position on these two important clauses, and now it is our turn to lobby the MPs ahead of the joint session,” said Mizan Law Group Director Eva Abu Halaweh.

Abu Halaweh’s organisation held a meeting that included a discussion between the women’s movement and religious leaders on the next phase of lobbying to help ensure that the two clauses pass when lawmakers meet soon.

“We also plan to send testimonies by women, who were forced to marry at a young age and went through difficult and miserable times, to MPs so that we can convey the harm that is caused by early marriages,” Abu Halaweh said.

The legal age of marriage in Jordan is 18 for men and women, but the law allowed for several exceptions for girls aged 15 and above if a judge deemed it in their best interests.

According to the Chief Islamic Justice Department’s (CIJD) official statistics, there were 77,700 marriage contracts issued in 2017, of which 10,434 (around 30 a day) involved marriages in which the wife was under the age of 18.

Government statistics indicated that divorce cases among individuals under 18 amounted to 5,335 in 2017, of which, 413 cases involved wives under the age of 18.

CIJD Judge Suheib Shakhanbeh, who was also present during the meeting, stressed that Sharia judges are “becoming stricter about tying the knot for young couples”.

“We have taken extra steps to ensure that the marriage is really in favour of the girl by asking her if she is okay to go through the process without the presence of her family members in the room,” Shakhanbeh explained.

The Sharia judge added that each case is “examined separately to ensure that the couples are compatible, and if we feel that it is not in the interest of the girl to tie the knot at a young age, we refuse to marry them,” Shakhanbeh said.

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