Combating early marriage in Jordan has been on the national agenda for some time now because of its proven ill effects, but with little impact.
Minister of Social Development Hala Lattouf has, therefore, put the issue on the county's agenda once again, when she presided over last week’s one-day event, organised by the Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW) in cooperation with the European Regional Development and Protection Programme, held for this very purpose.
JNCW Secretary General Salma Nims said right from the outset that “JNCW’s position is clear and we want to cancel all the exceptions that allows for the marriage of girls ages 15-18”.
According to the Chief Islamic Justice Department, there were 77,700 marriages in 2017, of which 10,434 involved marriages of girls under 18.
There were three proposals submitted for addressing this problem; to cancel all exceptions to the minimum 18 years rule, lower the minimum age from 18 to 16 or maintain the current legislation, but apply restrictions, such as the difference between the ages of husband and wife must not exceed 15 years.
Of all the options considered, maintaining a minimum age of 18 with no exceptions sounds the most sensible. It goes without saying that people under the age of 18 are children under international human rights definitions. How then can a child enter into a contract of marriage when she is a minor? What is to prevent couples from waiting till they are grown up before marrying each other?
There are too many divorces in the country as is, so why increase the chances for divorces by allowing people who are not mature enough to enter into a permanent relationship with the opposite sex? The country must be strict and unwavering on this issue, by helping young girls make the proper choice when they consent to marriage after they arrive at the age of 18.