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Centre urges including child marriages in Anti-Human Trafficking Law

By Camille Dupire - Jun 19,2018 - Last updated at Jun 19,2018

Early marriages strongly hinder the chances for girls to pursue their education and obtain a job later on (Photo courtesy of Tamkeen Facebook page)

AMMAN — A recent study by Tamkeen Fields for Aid, an organisation that aims to “combat all forms of discrimination, human trafficking and torture”, showed that some 10,907 underage marriages took place in Jordan in 2016, 170 of which included an age difference between husband and wife of 22 years or more.

“This is not just another study that points out the issue of underage marriage. This report is here to support our demands of including these marriages as human trafficking cases in the new draft law on anti-human trafficking,” said Tamkeen Director Linda Kalash, noting that the study was accompanied by a position paper on the link between school dropouts and early marriages.

In April this year, the centre released a statement saying that most early marriage cases “should be considered as human trafficking”, calling on the government to amend the Anti-Human Trafficking Law in order to combat child marriage. Tamkeen also urged a reform of the public education system, including early marriage awareness in schools’ curricula. 

“With the new government in place, we really hope they will take into consideration our demands to amend the law, as this issue is crucial for the lives of many,” Kalash told The Jordan Times, stressing “the legislation used to focus on the issue of child marriage alone but not in relation with human trafficking. This is what we are lobbying for.”

She added: “Including the issue of underage marriage as human trafficking is utterly needed as, when one looks at the statistics, we see cases of young girls getting married to men sometimes 15 to 20 years older than them, let alone cases of women who are legally over 18, but have the mental age of five year-old children.”

Despite the existence of legal provisions forbidding underage marriages in which parties have an age difference of 15 years or more, the centre’s director said that many “exceptions” are being documented, citing nine cases where the groom was more than 50 years older than the underage bride.

Thirty-eight cases of early marriages were also documented, where the age gap between both parties exceeded 33 years.

“The law declares underage boys and girls legally fit to make a definitive and fatal decision such as entering marriage contracts, but does not allow them to vote, drive or issue official documents,” the study stressed.

“The numbers that we usually see are often biased, as they don’t take into account certain cases, for instance forced marriages of women with intellectual disabilities. Yet, this is clearly a case of human trafficking and exploitation,” Kalash underlined, adding “the age and lack of awareness of married young girls in Jordan makes them vulnerable to exploitation, turning them into victims of the psychological, social and health consequences deriving from child marriage.”

This was reflected in Tamkeen’s policy paper on education, which higlighted the direct link between the increase of girls dropping out of school and the increase in child bride cases.

“Early marriages is also depriving these girls access to university education or vocational training, which definitely hinders their ability to obtain a job later,” the policy paper stated, citing data from the General Population and Housing Census for 2015.

Interestingly, the study went against the public’s perception of the issue, showing that the dropout rate was similar among the Jordanian and Syrian communities and that “the issue of underage marriage was not affected by the Syrian refugee crisis”.

Instead, the annual increase of 13 per cent in Jordan’s recorded cases of underage marriages was shown to be “consistent” before and after the influx of Syrian refugees in Jordan.

“This gradual increase is only reflective of the Kingdom’s demographics. As in any social phenomenon, the increase in child marriage cases is reflective of the population growth in Jordan, rather than the refugees,” it concluded.

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