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Debating forced child marriages: women’s right versus social considerations

18-4-2017

AL Hayat daily published a special feature on Thursday related to early marriage in Lebanon. The article highlighted a controversy which has sparked lately on the subject with Hizbullah’s public endorsement of early marriage and a counter campaign by Lebanese Forces which read ‘don’t pick it before it is ripe’. Besides, Al Hayat mentioned the draft law presented by MP Elie Kayrouz for the protection of children against early marriage and which set the age for marriage at 18 years in addition to related objections by feminist activists to Hizbullah’s call and its flagrant confiscation of the right of the woman to choose when to marry. Al Hayat wrote that recent demands for early marriage did not follow a slump or decline in the rate of early marriages. On the contrary, citing a report published in 1997 by Central Statistics Department on the living conditions of Lebanese households, Al Hayat has noted that the phenomenon has never retreated and is still largely common in specific rural areas. The report has shown that the marriage rate among women (aged between 15-19 years) reached 7.8% compared to 2.6% in the capital, Beirut, while pointing that describing the 7.8% rate as outspread is overstated. The newspaper went on in its analysis to say that the calls for early marriage coincide with multiple developments, according to a 2013 survey by the Immigration Policy Center. These include: delayed first marriages, expansion of celibacy among women, fighting illiteracy trends among young women aged 15 – 24 years (1.99% in 2007 according to Central Statistics figures), women representing nearly 55% of overall university students (Central Statistics, 2012), low fertility rates and ‘feminization of migration’ (close to 46% of total Lebanese emigrants). Al Hayat concluded by saying that chances are weak for the above proposed bill, suggesting a more feasible legislation requiring those who wish to marry, especially women under 18 years, to attend awareness sessions on birth control and reproductive health. (Al Hayat, April 13, 2017)

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