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End child marriage

Apr 13,2019 - Last updated at Apr 13,2019

It is a shame that the two chambers of Parliament agreed last week to keep the age of marriage for girls at 15, albeit on exceptional cases that a ruling Sharia judge would consider as in their best interest.

Has Parliament not learnt by now that under binding international human rights norms, notably the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a girl under the age of 18 is a child not capable of making decisions affecting her life forever!

What criteria did Parliament have in mind to yield to the logic or rational of lowering the age of consent for marriage for a girl at the age of 15 when she is still a child, even when a Sharia judge approves such a marriage, allegedly for the interest of the child?

When will Parliament, may we ask, take on board the human rights standards that Jordan has duly signed and endorsed and which have become part and parcel of its domestic legislation? To put it more bluntly, when are MPs going to take seriously Jordan’s treaty obligations under the various international human rights conventions? What interest could a child less than 18 have when she is allowed to enter into a marriage contract at the age of 15? The biggest question is when Jordan is going to abide by international human rights treaties it has duly become party to, years ago.

Jordan would have great difficulty explaining such a decision by Parliament when its periodic reports are considered either by the UN Human Rights Council or any of the 10 human rights treaty bodies.

The constitutionality of this decision by Parliament is something that the Constitutional Court of the country should be asked to make a ruling on. The Constitutional Court was created in the first place to make decisions on the constitutionality of domestic laws, and this latest one by Parliament offers a unique opportunity for the court to pronounce itself on the superiority of international law over domestic legislation, and strike down the law allowing girls at the age of 15 to marry.

The sooner this is done the better for the image of the country.

As is, according to the Chief Islamic Justice Department, there were 77,700 marriage contracts concluded in Jordan last year, a total of 10,434 or 13.4 per cent of them were for girls under the age of 18. This travesty cannot continue with impunity, and efforts by the governments to stop it are now a high priority.

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