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No child interest served by early marriages

Aug 02,2017 - Last updated at Aug 02,2017

On the occasion of the launch of the study “Marriage of minors in Jordan”, on Sunday, the minister of planning and international cooperation got to the heart of the matter when he said that child marriage is a “reproduction of poverty, ignorance and disease”.

The study, prepared by the Higher Population Council, the Department of Statistics, the National Committee for Women Affairs and the National Council for Family Affairs, intended to identify the causes and effects of child marriage and reach proposals that contribute to combating this negative phenomenon, including through revoking loopholes in the pertinent law that still accords judges the power to allow for exceptions to the 15 to 18-year minimum age for marriage for girls if “it is in their best interest”.

The regulations recently issued by the Cabinet to regulate the legal age for early marriage for girls drew criticism from activists and women groups in the country; many described them as a “step backwards”.

They replace previous legislation, issued in 2011, which specified the age of marriage for boys and girls, along with other matters related to the marriage of youngsters. 

In 2002, several changes were made to the Personal Status Law, including raising the legal age of marriage to 18 from 15 for women and 16 for men, but the changes still allowed exceptions, which were also being targeted by the new study.

Beyond legalities, just from a grown-up, or parent, perspective, how can the best interest of a child be served by allowing that child to marry at an early age?

According to the minister, who is also president of the Higher Population Council, allowing minors to marry has serious economic effects on the safety and wellbeing of families; it affects the education and care of children, leads to neglect, displacement and, possibly, to an environment that generates violence.

What possible justification can be presented to prove that it is in the best interest of a child to enter into early marriage?

It may serve the financial situation of a family or be in line with some social traditions, but by any scientific reasoning, it cannot be good for a minor still in the process of physical and mental development.

The fact that the so-called exceptions are not really exceptions is illustrated by the fact that child marriages are still quite widespread, accounting for 17.6 per cent of all marriages among Jordanian women and 39.5 per cent among Syrian refugee women.

The exceptions allowed under the current law regulating marriage negate the intents and purposes of the law against child marriage.

Understanding that poverty and ignorance are the main reasons for the child marriage phenomenon, the way to deal with the problem is to tackle these issues first.

 

The legislative and executive branches of government should be prompted to reconsider this troubling issue and adopt the amendments that end the loopholes that make children prey to grown-ups’ whims.

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