JAFFA, Israel – Child marriage in Jordan has hit a record high, with 10,866 minor brides registered in 2015 alone.
According to data released by the kingdom’s religious courts system, more than 30,000 people under 18 years old have been wed over the last three years, some 13.5 percent of the overall number of marriages in the country. Conversely, 494 minor women divorced in 2015.
Jordanian law sets the marriage age at 18, though exceptions are allowed with the intervention of the head of the religious courts if he deems the marriage essential for the couple and they have chosen it freely.
Child marriage has long been a bone of contention between conservatives and modernists in the country. Human rights organizations have argued that the motivation for child marriage is often the financial benefit the father of the bride reaps when receiving a dowry. Other cases involve girls who suffer from emotional neglect or abuse, generally characteristic of a patriarchal and conservative society.
Over the last few years, Jordan has witnessed a growing exploitation of Syrian girls who have found asylum from the civil war in their country. Some cases have been reported of wealthy Arab men, mainly from the Gulf, who “marry” underage refugees for several nights or weeks in exchange for a hefty dowry.
Human rights organizations claim that, despite the legality of these marriages, they are tantamount to child prostitution, considering that the brides are sometimes as young as nine years old.
Al Hayat newspaper has recently reported on two Syrian sisters, aged 15 and 16, who were married to two brothers from the Gulf in exchange for a $7,000 dowry. They said that two weeks into the marriage, their husbands disappeared from their Amman apartments.
Dr Ashraf Eloumri, a religious courts official, revealed that 6,000 Syrian minors are registered to marry every month, and that 50 percent of these marriages end in divorce.