The question of early marriages in the Middle east, Yemen, Central Asia and Pakistan is not a new phenomenon, and it is often linked to the question of human trafficking. The SURGIR Foundation has chosen to work on this maltreatment among syrian refugees in Jordan.
Early marriages in Jordan
In 2010, the Jordanian Personal Status Law was changed to set the minimum age at 18 years for marrying boys and girls. However, the revised law leaves room for exceptions to marry boys and girls aged 15 to 18, if the Shari’a judge is of the opinion that this marriage will be « beneficial for both partners ». In large families where the father's wage struggles to feed all his children, early marriage is a means for putting girls out of need. In addition to respect for traditions, these marriages provide parental pride.
Consequences for these young girls are dramatic : it relates to the access to education as they are no longer attending school after their marriage, and there are serious consequences fot their health, including complications linked to early pregnancy and their lack of knowledge of hygiene for themselves and for the baby. It can also put them in serious danger as they are trapped into marriage, facing multiple forms of violence (psychological and sexual) from their husband.
The percentage of early marriages in Jordan grew from 12% in 2011 to 32% in the first 3 months of 2014. This increase unfortunately coincides with the influx of syrian refugees registered by the UNHCR in Jordan.
Most of these very young brides are married to men much older : 16% are married to men 15 years older than them, 32% are married to men aged 10 to 14 years older, and 37% are married to men 5 to 9 years older.
Combating early marriages
The SURGIR Foundation has defined a 3 years programme that started in june 2016.
The purpose is to put in place a well documented prevention device to protect the right of girls to marriage, education and health. It will take place in the governorates of Jarash, Zarqa and south of the Jordan Valley and follows 3 objectives :
- Mobilize the school communities (directors, teachers, advisors, students and parents) and involve them in the efforts to avoid that girls leave school and be driven toward marriage under the legal age. 3'300 children and 500 parents will benefit from awareness sessions and empowered to take action in 6 selected schools.
- Mobilize a group of men and strengthen their capacitiy to promote messages and influence people of their community, to make them understand the wrongdoings of under-age marriage of their daughters/sisters.
- Provide the Ministry of education a frame of reference to understand the emergency of social guidance in schools and to study the best way this gained experience can be duplicated to all schools in Jordan.