The Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering- RDFL organized a press conference to launch its national media campaign against child marriage entitled “#NotBefore18”, in the Beirut House of the lawyer in the presence of official and civil public figures including the Minister of State for Women’s Affairs Jean Oghasapian, President of the National Commission for Lebanese Women Claudine Aoun Rokouz, Former Minister Wafaa Al Dika Hamza, Deputy Elie Kayrouz, Lawyer Lara Saadeh on behalf of Deputy Sami Jmayel, Lawyer Elizabeth Al Siofi on behalf of Minister of Human Rights Ayman Shkeir, Representative of the French ambassador in Lebanon, Representative of the Ambassador Christina Lassen, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon, in addition to a number of journalists, reporters, artists, actors, actresses, and representatives of international, political, women’s rights, and civil organizations.
The conference was launched by the President of RDFL, Laila Mrouwe, who stressed the adherence of RDFL to use the term “forced early marriage” in all its literature. As she said, “…Because we consider that the marriage of a girl who does not have the intellectual, legal, psychological and health abilities that qualify her to choose freely and consciously or to commit to a contract, it is a marriage because there is another party who gave himself the right to choose instead and make the decision to marry her, so in our opinion, this is not called marriage, but forced marriage. Some may say that a girl aged 15, 16 or 17 is not a child and can be married if she wishes. Here we answer that as long as this girl cannot do any legal act of her own, such as having a driving license for example. Therefore, we can’t rely on her desire to engage and get married as a justification for marriage because of the lack of eligibility of the girl and the serious complications that can be left by this step. Any girl under the age of 18, even by one day, is still considered a child and has the full right to legal protection from early marriage.”
Mrouwe pointed out that RDFL worked on preparing a draft law for the “Protection of Children from Early Marriage” in cooperation with a group of judges and lawyers. It was adopted by Deputy Elie Kayrouz and presented to the Parliament in March 2017. Unfortunately, this law remains in the drawer of the Parliament President Nabih Berri, who refrained from performing his duty to transfer the law to the parliamentary committee concerned in reviewing it. Mrouwe ended her speech by reminding the audience that RDFL considers the right of women to full equality a priority that shouldn’t be fragmented, and it should be guaranteed by the force of Law.
Mrs. Claudine Aoun Rokouz, President of the National Commission for Lebanese Women, stressed that the marriage of underage girls has multiple serious consequences, both physically and psychologically, in addition to negative social repercussions both on the individual and the family level and on the level of society as a whole. Early marriage is considered to be trafficking in human beings and causing a sexual exploitation to the body of a young girl. Aoun Rokouz said that the NCLW, in cooperation with the Minister of State for Women Affairs and civil society organizations, decided to pursue dialogue with the religious leaders to try to convince them to adopt a uniform age of marriage of 18 full years for men and women alike, to conduct national awareness campaigns to warn against the dangers of underage marriage, in addition to the legislative authority to approve the law prohibiting the marriage of children.
The closure of the conference was with the speech of the head of media department at RDFL, Hayat Mirshad, who pointed out that the launching of the media campaign today coincides with the International Day of Girls, and considering the elimination of child marriage is one of the most important priorities of many organizations and countries. Mirshad mentioned that the campaign focuses on the health risks of child marriage, which could threaten their lives and the life of the fetus. “Before the age of 18, the body is not fully developed, the uterus is immature and the pelvis is not ready for pregnancy leaving multiple health complications, including premature birth, vaginal rupture, fatal gestational blood pressure, mental disorders, recurrent miscarriages …”. At the end of the conference, Mirshad presented the various media campaign materials as well as supporting messages to determine the age of marriage in Lebanon by a number of media professionals, artists, clerics and influencers from all fields.
Beirut- Wednesday, October 11th, 2017