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Women’s organisation warns of expected increase in child marriage cases during COVID-19 crisis

By Rana Husseini - Apr 20,2020 - Last updated at Apr 20,2020

AMMAN — A local women’s organisation on Monday warned of an increase in early marriage cases considering the COVID-19 crisis, and called for a national plan to minimise the expected rise in child marriage incidents in the Kingdom.

“We fear that there will be an increase in numbers of early marriage cases because of the current situation, since many families will suffer economically from the lockdown and most probably resort to marrying their young daughters,” said Solidarity Is Global Institute (SIGI) Executive Director Asma Khader.

She told The Jordan Times that another fear is that many people might “wed their young daughters without registering the marriage officially since there are no courts working”.

“There needs to be stiff measures by the authorities in the event that it becomes known that a family plans to wed her daughter at a young age in these exceptional circumstances,” Khader added.

She added SIGI’s call Monday was to commemorate the week of April 18 – 23 that was designated by SIGI during the launching of a national campaign in 2018 entitled “Nujoud” to eradicate child marriage in Jordan.

Njoud is a Yemeni girl who said no to early marriage but became the youngest to be married and divorced at the age of 10 after experiencing physical and sexual abuse during her two-month marriage.

Khader also added that SIGI decided to launch the campaign on April 18 as a form of a symbol because it is the month when flowers blossom and we want to remind everyone that our girls need to blossom and to get married after the age of 18.

Meanwhile, SIGI issued a statement on Monday calling on all “entities to unite to fight this phenomenon by using any possible means to raise awareness, organise viral events to tackle this pressing and urgent matter”.

“There is an urgent need to conduct viral activities that would raise awareness about the social, health, legal and psychological effects of early marriage on young women in Jordan and the refugee communities,” the SIGI statement added.

SIGI and women groups have been calling for abolishing the provision in the Civil Status Law that allows child marriage by giving judges the authority to allow girls at 15 years to get married if the groom is considered competent.

The legal age for marriage in Jordan is 18 for both men and women, but the law allows for several exceptions for girls aged 15 and above if a judge deems it is in their best interests. In 2019, 8,000 girls under 18 were wed in Jordan last year, according to women’s groups.

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

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