Thursday, 4 April 2019
HPC stressed that the issue of under-age marriages is considered one of the primary population issues that threaten the standard of society’s demographic characteristics and the efforts aimed at benefiting from the demographic change Jordan is going through. According to HPC, this issue has a significant impact on raising fertility rates and it reduces women economic participation and violates many of the legitimate rights of girls, including the right to learn and develop capacities and the right to equal marriage and sound family relations. Infringement of such rights reflects negatively on the quality of life and reproductive health of girls.
In a brief sent to the Parliament on the issue of under-age marriages in Jordan aimed at furthering the discussion on the amendment of the legislation related to this issue, HPC stated that in keeping with its role in facing population issues, including the issue of under-age marriages which has notably resurfaced over the past five years as the rate of child marriages under the age of 18 reached about 18.1% of all marriages in 2015, it held a workshop in the same year that was attended by a number of specialists who are representatives of relevant national institutions to discuss this issue. Based on the recommendations drawn from this workshop, HPC conducted a specialized study for the purposes of identifying the magnitude and temporal and geographical trends of the problem and learning its implications and causes and the motives behind it. As a result, HPC produced a proposed policy brief.
HPC pointed out that the study and the policy brief were adopted by the Prime Ministry under the recommendation of the Services, Infrastructure and Social Affairs Committee at the Ministry. Moreover, the Prime Minister instructed the relevant institutions to implement the recommendations which were translated to the adoption of a national action plan to reduce the number of marriages of those who are under 18 years of age for the years 2018-2022. The action plan was also adopted and disseminated by the Prime Ministry. The primary recommendation of the study and the action plan was to consider amending the exceptions in Paragraph (B) of the Clause 10 of the Personal Status Law No. 36 of 2010.
HPC reaffirmed that the issue of under-age marriages constitutes a problem in the Jordanian society’s culture. According to the General Population Census of 2015, the marriage rate of females under the age of 18 among all married females on the national level rose from 13.7% in 2010 to 18.1% in 2015, induced by the increase in the number of marriages of Syrian females under the age of 18 which, in 2015, comprised half of all marriages of Syrian females in Jordan. This rate was also induced by the increase in the number of marriages of Jordanian females under the age of 18 in 2013-2015, rising from 10.2% in 2013 to 11.6 in 2015, the thing that came after a stabilization in the direction and rate which had been less than 10% during the period between 2010-2012.
HPC explained that evidence show the negative effects child marriages have on a wide range of development outcomes and the economic costs such effects entail. The conversation about child marriages should not be fixated on the economic perspective only; the human costs of such practice in relation to the girls who experience it must be addressed as well. There is globally increasing evidence that early pregnancy is one of the leading causes of death in girls in the age group of 15-19. Child marriages also have negative effects on mental and psychological health, especially for girls who get married before they reach 15 years of age.
Furthermore, HPC stated that it is disconcerting that there are married girls who are under the legal age or the exception age. In 2015, there were (36,676) Jordanian girls under the age of 25 who got married before turning 18 years of age, 1,638 of which were under the age of 15 (4.5%), 6,959 were 15 years old (19%), 11,777 were 16 years old (32%) and 16,302 were 17 years old (44.4%). These percentages are out of the total number of Jordanian females who were under the age of 25 in 2015 and got married before turning 18
In 2015, there were (34,407) Syrian girls under the age of 25 who got married before turning 18 years of age, 5,169 of which were under the age of 15 (15%), 8,769 were 15 years old (25.5%), 10,209 were 16 years old (29.7%) and 10,260 were 17 years old (29.8%). These percentages are out of the total number of Syrian females who were under the age of 25 in 2015 and got married before turning 18.
According to HPC, the most common reasons for under-age marriages are poverty and relief of the girl’s financial liability, repeated failure in school and dropouts, social upbringing, relief of the so-called “preserving the girl’s honor” responsibility and customs and traditions.
On the negative effects of under-age marriages on human development and the future of Jordan, HPC noted that if we consider GoJ’s concern with human development, there are significant costs for girls who marry as children. Early marriage ends the childhood ad education of such girls and often jeopardizes their health and economic well-being, leading to huge economic costs on the society. The most visible manifestation of this is that most child brides are poor and most likely to remain poor and that girls who get married when they are underage are less likely to receive the education they need to lead a healthy and productive life. Furthermore, with no education, these girls are less capable of earning a living to lift themselves and their families from poverty. In addition to the fact that married females under the age of 18 are the most vulnerable in terms of enjoying a health insurance and their husbands often have unstable careers.
As stated by HPC, married females under the age of 18 are the least educated. On the national level, the rate of females who have basic level education or less reached 86.7% [a1] (80.3% of Jordanian females and 94.3% of Syrian females in Jordan). Moreover, on the national level, 46.3% of the husbands of married females under the age of 18 had basic level education or less (35.6% had high school and diploma degrees and 17.8% had BA degrees or above).
HPC also pointed out that the economic activity becomes virtually non-existent for females due to their early marriages, wiping out their ambitions and desire to work along with it. On the national level, 97% of married females under the age of 18 do not work and are not looking for a job. Furthermore, when we talk about half a million women who live in Jordan or quarter a million Jordanian females who got married when they were under the age of 18 and got frozen from the beginning of their careers, we become fully aware that under-age marriages are one of the primary factors in explaining the low economic participation rate of Jordanian women, a rate that remained constant for the past decade.
Moreover, HPC noted that the husbands of married females who are under the age of 18 often have unstable careers. More than half of married Jordanian females under the age of 18 have husbands who do not work or work in irregular jobs. The rate is even worse for Syrians, as 80% of Syrian married females who are under the age of 18 have husbands who do not work or work in irregular jobs.
HPC explained that investment in changes in the age composition of the population and population growth rates are among the most important issues that are of great interest to any country that aims to achieve its citizens’ well-being and enable them to lead decent lives, the thing that leads to achieving comprehensive and sustained economic and social development. High population growth rates call for the realization of economic growth rates that exceed the population growth rate in order to raise the living standards of the population and provide job opportunities for the increasing numbers of people and enhance the human capital. Marriage and fertility have primary roles in preserving economic growth on the long run. For instance, high fertility rates lead to larger households, which in turn leads to low level of savings for the family and the negatives effect of such on turning such savings to investments that reflect positively on economy and productivity.
As stated by HPC, child marriages boost overall fertility. Women who get married at a younger age tend to have children early and carry more babies over the span of their lives than women who get married at an older age. Studies show that, by the end of their reproductive life, women who get married under the age of 18 have 25% more live births than women who get married at the age of 18 or later. Even marrying at the age of 17 in comparison to marrying at the age of 18 or later has significant implications on overall fertility. The findings of the Population and Family Health survey of 2017-2018 show that 5% of women aged between 15-19 in Jordan have begun childbearing. The percentage for Syrian females is 27.8% and 3.1% for Jordanian females. Findings also showed that 8.9% of Syrian females aged between 15-19 were pregnant with their first child.
HPC also pointed out that the youth comprise most of the Jordanian population. More than 20% are aged between 15-24. Youth are a great resource to our country. However, their potentials can only be reached through the employment of the right investments in their education, health, skills and empowerment and by safeguarding them from the threat of early marriage.
HPC noted that the most salient recommendations of the study and policy brief include the control, codification and follow-up of the exceptions provided in Paragraph (b) of Clause 10 of the Personal Status Law; addressing the issues of girl dropouts and raise the level of compulsory education to high school; ensuring the right to an education for all married and pregnant under-age girls through non-formal education strategies, literacy classes or any other options and procedures developed; providing financial support for families that resort to marrying their daughters because of poverty and poor financial situations, while simultaneously providing family counselling and awareness; developing and executing a comprehensive awareness-raising plan on under-age marriages and their negative implications on individuals, households and society; developing an awareness-raising program for shari'a judges and preachers on the implications of under-age marriages; development of the preventive and curative programs and services relating to under-age marriages; supporting the community endorsement initiatives aimed at males in the society for the purpose of changing the attitudes towards marriages of people of either gender who are under the age of 18 and the negative implications of such; combating all forms of violence against girls and women - especially sexual violence and sexual assault - through policies and programs that focus on prevention, treatment, guidance and protection, and implementing the National Strategy for Reducing Under-age Marriages