Azraq camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan
© UNHCR/Jordi Matas
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How UNHCR is working to prevent child marriages in Jordan

Preventing child marriage involves helping girls to understand their rights.

UNHCR is working on a new pilot program with religious authorities in Jordan aimed at reducing the number of child marriages among Syrian refugees.  

Courts in Jordan allow marriage from the age of 16, but this program aims to deter 16 and 17 year olds from marrying.

“The idea … (is) to ensure that applicants and their families understand the potential consequences of early marriage, and perhaps delay a little,” said Abdallah Ibrahim, a child protection officer for UNHCR Jordan.

One of the key components of the UNHCR-backed pilot program with the Sharia court is helping girls to understand their rights. “In Islamic law, a girl can state in the marriage contract that she has the right to education, for example,” said Ibrahim. “We’re working with Sharia courts to ensure that message is conveyed.”  The girls also receive information about the potential physical effects of teenage pregnancy, which include higher risks of complications like eclampsia and infections.

Child marriage is linked to negative outcomes for girls, which include dropping out of school and poor self-esteem. “They miss out on their youth – all of a sudden they go from being children to being women, without having a chance to finish their education or discover who they are,” said Ibrahim. “They might not have the skills to run a household, they’re often looking after children at a very young age and they’re vulnerable to domestic abuse because they have little power.”

With the support of the Sharia court, UNHCR hopes the education program will reduce the number of teenagers applying for permission to marry. 

“The concept of marriage education isn’t new but focusing on children aged 16-18 means that we have a chance to help them to better understand what marriage involves, and maybe come to the realisation that they’re better off waiting for a while.”

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