Child marriage on the rise among Syrian refugees in Jordan – UNICEF

by Magda Mis | @magdalenamis1 | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 16 July 2014 12:09 GMT

Syrian refugee children paint on their school wall at Al Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

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The Syrian conflict has put pressure on refugee families to get their daughters married early, despite the health risks

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Nearly one in three marriages among Syrian refugees in Jordan involves a child under 18 and the proportion is rising for a second consecutive year, according to a report released on Wednesday.

Child marriage has long been an accepted practice among parts of the Syrian population, reaching 13 percent of all marriages in pre-war Syria, but the civil war has exacerbated factors believed to encourage early marriage.

In the first quarter of this year 32 percent of all Syrian refugee marriages registered in Jordan involved a child, the U.N. children's agency (UNICEF) said, in a report released ahead of an international summit to spur global action to end child marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting.

The first quarter figure has risen from 18 percent of such marriages in 2012 and 25 percent in 2013, but the real percentage is likely to be higher as those figures refer only to marriages certified by a specialized Jordanian court.

Factors that contribute to early marriage among Syrian refugees in Jordan are reducing poverty or the burden on a family with many daughters, providing protection for girls, cultural or family traditions or escaping abusive families.

Early marriage, however, has immediate and life-long effects on girls’ health and wellbeing.

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

Completing one more year of school can increase a girl’s ability to earn a higher salary by 15 to 20 percent.

The report quoted the mother of one 16-year-old girl who has been married for nine months and is pregnant as saying the rise of child marriage among the refugees is a result of children dropping out of school earlier because of the Syrian conflict.

Once a teenage girl has left school and is at home, she receives marriage proposals, the mother was quoted as saying.

There are more than 600,000 Syrian refugees registered in Jordan, and over half of them are under the age of 18.

(Editing by Tim Pearce; timothy.pearce@thomsonreuters.com)