Child marriage shows no sign of abating in Jordan, UNICEF study shows

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Sharp increase in marriage rates among Syrian refugee girls

AMMAN, Jordan, 16 July 2014 -- More than 1 out of 10 girls in Jordan marries before the age of 18, a rate that has been relatively consistent over the past decade, despite a sharp increase among Syrian refugees in the country, according to the findings of a new UNICEF study.

“Girls that marry before 18 years of age are at increased risk of complications during pregnancy and of being victims of abuse,” said Robert Jenkins, UNICEF Representative in Jordan. “They also have more limited economic opportunities due to loss of schooling and can get trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty.”

The study says that, in 2013, of all registered marriages in Jordan, 13 per cent involved a girl less than 18 years of age.

But among Syrian refugees living in the country, that rate is increasing rapidly: from 1 out of 5 in 2012, to 1 out of 4 in 2013, and 1 out of 3 during the first quarter of this year. Although child marriage was not uncommon in pre-war Syria, displacement, poverty and lack of education opportunities are exacerbating factors.

The report highlights that common reasons for child marriage in Jordan include: alleviating poverty or the burden of a large family with many daughters; providing protection for young girls; continuing traditions (cultural or family); and serving as an escape for girls living in an abusive home environment.

Jordanian law puts the legal minimum age of marriage for girls and boys at 18. However, those under 18 may get married under special conditions. UNICEF advocates to uphold, in line with international standards, the minimum legal age of marriage at 18 for both boys and girls.

UNICEF works with other United Nations agencies, international non-governmental organizations, local partners, educational staff, parents and religious leaders to identify and prevent cases of child marriage, as well as to support those who have married early. Promoting education, providing safe and protective spaces where girls can discuss their issues and talking with parents, community and religious leaders all play a role in addressing child marriage.

For those at risk of child marriage, UNICEF and its partners empower girls through providing vocational training, psychosocial support and life skills that can highlight options other than marrying early.

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About UNICEF
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

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