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Fri, 06 Dec 2019 13:24 GMT

Child Marriage On The Rise Among Syrian Refugees in Jordan


Mohammad Ghazal - 7Dnews Amman

Wed, 25 Jul 2018 13:14 GMT

One day Salwa, 16, was having a game of hide and seek with her friends near her mobile home in Al Zatari Camp in 2016, when her mother called for her, telling her to stop playing and start preparing herself as she would be getting married in a week.

Salwa, who came to the camp from Daraa in Syria along with her four sisters and two brothers, is the eldest in the family. She enjoyed going to school and spending time with her friends. 

"Salma gave birth to her first child last year…she married her cousin and since getting married she stopped going to school," a child protection worker at the camp, who dealt with Salwa's case, told 7Dnews. 

"A few weeks after she got married, she was beaten up by her husband but never complained…Salwa only complained of the bad treatment by her husband when she attended a training course about combating child marriage," the child protection worker said. 

When Salwa became pregnant, she was provided with psychological support and interventions; she also took part in several activities to educate her on how to take care of herself and her baby, the relief worker said. 

"When we first knew about her situation, she was in a bad shape. Her health was deteriorating, and she was in a difficult psychological condition," the child protection worker said. 

Salwa's mother, Basma, said it was not unusual for girls of her daughter's age to get married. "In our neighborhood in Daraa, most of us work as peasants and it is normal for girls to marry when they are 15 or 17," Basma told 7Dnews over the phone.

"When we came to Jordan, the situation became more difficult and my husband was not working at all… My husband said the time was due for my daughter to get married. I wanted her to continue going to school, but the living situation was very bad," Basma said. 

Salwa is one of thousands of Syrian girls in Jordan who married when they are less than 18 years old. Overall, the number of Syrian girls leaving school and becoming child brides is on the rise. In 2014, around 15% of all Syrian marriages in Jordan involved a child bride, but the number has risen to 36% in 2018. 

According to the latest Population and Housing Census conducted in 2015, there are 414,353 females who married under the age of 18, of which 253,155 are Jordanian, 113,370 are Syrian and 47,883 are females of other nationalities. 

"More awareness, more protection needed"

Female Syrian refugees are much more vulnerable to violence when compared to male refugees. They have almost no say, and they suffer from the miserable conditions their families live in, Hussein Khuzaie, associate professor of sociology, told 7Dnews. 

"Because of poverty, Syrian families let their daughters marry when they are less than 18 years old. They let them marry to provide them with protection and also to reduce the burden and pressure on themselves," he said. 

Child marriage is also the main reason for Syrian refugee girls to drop out of school, he said. 

"When the girls get married and become pregnant they become child mothers. They are still kids and when they have babies it is like kids playing with younger kids…They need psychological support. They need more awareness," he said. 

In spite of several interventions by UN agencies to help address the issue, the phenomenon is not on the decline. 

"As long as there is poverty, there will continue to be child marriage…Unfortunately, when the girls are married they are subject to violence and maltreatment sometimes and their families turn a blind eye in most cases," said Khuzaie. 

In Jordan, there are 1.3 million Syrian refugees of whom around 650,000 are registered with the UNHCR. Of the total number of those registered with the UNHCR, around 50.7% are women.

Middle East