When a young girl is pushed into marriage, the damage can last long after her wedding day. Research shows that girls who marry before the age of 18 receive less schooling than those who marry later, face a higher risk of domestic abuse, and suffer a lifetime of adverse effects on their physical and mental well-being. Yet child marriage continues to be a common practice in many countries worldwide including Lebanon. There is little information about the scale of child marriage in Lebanon. Official data suggests that 6% of girls are married by age 18. In February 2013, when around 200,000 Syrian refugees had arrived in Lebanon, a Child Protection Rapid Assessment revealed that child marriage was increasingly becoming an issue. Destitute Syrian families decide to marry their daughters off in the hope that a man will be able to provide financial and physical support and protection for their daughters. Also, there is no common minimum age of marriage for girls and women across the country. Different religious communities have personal status laws that govern legal procedures on matters such as marriage, divorce and inheritance.
Based on the above the Lebanese Democratic Women’s Gathering – RDFL, a secular NGO founded in 1976 that focuses on promoting equality between men and women, and with the contribution of an experts committee produced a draft law to establish the legal age of marriage in Lebanon at 18 years. This draft law was adapted by MP Elie Keyrouz and presented to the Lebanese Cabinet Last week, following a more than 4 months advocacy campaign lead by RDFL targeting decision makers. We worked also on forming a coalition of women’s rights and civil society NGOs supporting RDFL’s law and campaign.
Article 1 of the submitted law stipulates that a “child” refers to any boy or girl under the age of 18, and therefore “the age of marriage in Lebanese territory [should be] 18.” RDFL is also calling for amendments to existing articles. For instance, we hope to amend Article 485 to allow for stricter punishments for anyone found to be facilitating child marriages.
To check the complete law, please press here.