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Statistics and article about child marriages in the PA

Headline: “Female minors: Victims, not wives”

“‘I did not know then what the word marriage means. What I knew is that the bride wears white clothing, that her relatives come and celebrate with singing, and that everyone is happy’ – this is what S.G. said…

‘The moment the celebrations ended, characteristics of a new stage began to be exposed, of whose details I didn’t know any and which I did not know how to deal with, because the experience of a 13-year-old girl is not enough to know marriage.’

S.G. – an alias – was married at the age of 13 to a young man who was 11 years older than her, using a forged birth certificate. Her father did not understand at the time that he had committed a crime against his daughter…

Girls S.G.’s age live under their parents' wing and enjoy their protection and care. They have no responsibility or burden to bear, and they focus on games and studies in preparation for their future, while all of this was withheld from S.G. Instead, she was made responsible for a house, husband, and children requiring care that she herself did not receive at all.

‘From the first night I was beaten and reprimanded by my husband. What hurt me more was that I did not know why he beat me. I did not do anything to him. This situation did not just last one night, but rather became a part of my daily life. In addition, he threatened me that he would marry another minor.’

There are those who wonder why the female minors do not turn to the authorities to complain about their suffering. Expert Maha Ahmed said: ‘Most of the female minors do not have enough awareness and understanding to turn to the authorities. Some of them also do not have the courage or ability to go out of their houses to do this. Therefore there are dozens of stories that are still imprisoned, together with their victims, within the walls of the houses.’

Generally, the parents forge the [birth] certificates of their minor daughters in order to bypass the law of the Shari’ah courts, which have determined that the age of marriage is 15 Hijri years (i.e., according to the Muslim calendar) – in other words 14 civil years, six months, and 21 days.

In a similar story, B.K. attempted to return from her husband’s home to her father’s home on the wedding night, because she thought that the wedding ceremony had ended and that she must return to sleep in her bed. B.K. was married at the age of 15 to a young man seven years older than her. Her two parents left her and travelled to a state in the [Persian] Gulf.

B.K. was beaten and humiliated in her husband’s home. When she turned to her uncle, who was supposed to take the place of her father and protect her, she was shocked – he returned her to her husband’s house and ignored her complaints, which encouraged her husband and his family to keep beating her.

‘The first night, I behaved like any girl who does not know what marriage is. I innocently attempted to return with my father to our home. My husband’s sister stopped me, put me in my husband’s bedroom, and locked the door on us from the outside without even attempting to explain to me what is happening.’ …

B.K. gave birth to seven children from her husband, and she still lives with him under the same roof, but only to take care of her children.

In 2016 10,256 marriage contracts of girls under the age of 18 were registered in Palestine, in 2017 9,453, and in 2018 8,559. The number of marriage contracts that were registered for boys in the same age group was 507 in 2016, 429 in 2017, and 365 in 2018. This is according to the [Palestinian] Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).

Because of these numbers, the [PA] decided during its meeting on Oct. 21, [2019,] to propose a recommendation to [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas to amend clause 5 of the 1976 Law on the Status of Women so that it will be determined that the age of marriage will be 18 for both genders, with exceptions that the supreme Shari’ah judge will determine.

Acting Director of the Women’s Health and Development Department in the [PA] Ministry of Health Maha Awad said that early marriage affects the young women psychologically and physically…

She explained that the divorce rate among married children is high, and that this is attributed to their lack of understanding and how they do not accept the changes that accompany marriage, especially after birth.

Awad noted: ‘The cases of divorce complicate the situation and worsen the social problems. When the girl returns to her family with a child or two a new stage of suffering begins for her and her children, because the two environments (i.e., the two families) do not accept her, and society does not accept the idea of divorce. Therefore, early marriages have a part in destroying the family.’

According to statistical data, there were 806 cases of divorce of girls under the age of 18 in 2016, 807 in 2017, and 769 in 2018. Regarding boys [in the same age group], 47 cases of divorce were registered in 2016, 39 in 2017, and 35 in 2018…

Coordinator of the Women’s Affairs Committee in the Palestinian NGO Network Sana’a Shbeita explained that marrying off female minors under the age of 18 contradicts the [UN] Convention [On the Rights] of the Child, which Palestine has signed…

She said that the government’s decision to raise the age of marriage to 18, which was proposed to the president, constitutes an achievement for women… and that there is still a need for additional work for it to achieve its goal – putting an end to the early marriages.

She also said that the law is lacking, because it allowed the existence of exceptions that the supreme Shari’ah judge will determine – which arouses dissatisfaction among the civil society institutions and human rights activists…

It should be noted that in 2016 a total of 49,930 marriage contracts were registered in Palestine, in 2017 their number was 47,218, and in 2018 their number was 43,515. Regarding the cases of divorce that were registered in Palestine, in 2016 their number was 8,510, in 2017 their number was 8,568, and in 2018 their number was 8,509.”

 

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