Adults are marrying children as young as 10 in US: report reveals

Child bride (YouTube)
Updated 11 July 2017
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Adults are marrying children as young as 10 in US: report reveals

DUBAI: Shocking new figures have revealed that more than 200,000 children have been married in the US over the last 15 years.
Some of the children, who were as young as 10-years-old, wed adults that were decades older than them.
The minimum legal age for marriage in the US is 18, but there are legal loopholes that allow children to wed in certain circumstances, these include parental consent and pregnancy.
The official statistics suggest that at least 207,468 children were married between 2000 and 2015 in the US.

But the actual figure is likely to be far higher as 10 states provided either no information or incomplete statistics, according to information compiled by Unchained At Last, a group campaigning to abolish child marriage, and the investigative television documentary series Frontline.

There have been efforts to abolish child marriages altogether, but it has been met in some cases with opposition.

New Jersey’s Republican governor refused to sign a law that would made the state the first to have an outright ban on child marriage, without exception claiming it would conflict with religious customs.

Founder of Unchained at Last, Fraidy Reiss, said she was “literally shaking” when saw the data for New Jersey that revealed nearly 3,500 children had been married between 1995 and 2012.
She explained: “That number was so much higher than I had thought it would be… Then, the fact that the children were as young as 13 and the fact that it was mostly girls married to adult men.”
In June New York banned children under 17 from marrying; the age had previously been 14, with parental and court permission.
The figures have shown that it is mostly girls married across the country between 2000 and 2015, with most aged 16 or 17.
But the youngest to marry were three 10-year-old girls in Tennessee in 2001, who married men, aged 24, 25 and 31.
The youngest boy to marry was 11. He married a 27-year-old woman in the same state in 2006.
There were more than 1,000 children, 14-years-old or younger, who were granted marriage licenses. The breakdown in stats showed that 12-year-olds were granted marriage licenses in Alaska, Louisiana and South Carolina.
A further 11 states granted licenses to 13-year-olds.
The majority of the children were married to partners aged 18 to 29, with 60 percent aged 18 or 20.
But there were some instances where children were married to people decades older than them – that included a 14-year-old girl who wed a 74-year-old man in Alabama.
Lawyer Jeanne Smoot, of the Tahirih Justice Center, that provides legal support to women fleeing violence, and has called for an end to child marriages said most of the children were from poor backgrounds in rural areas.
“Almost all the evidence indicates that girls in cities don’t get married young, that girls from middle class or wealthy families, don’t get married young. This is a rural phenomenon and it is a phenomenon of poverty.”


The scent of soap making returns to Aleppo

Syrian businessman Ali Shami arranges olive soap bars in a factory on the outskirts of Aleppo. (AFP)
Updated 23 March 2019
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The scent of soap making returns to Aleppo

  • Shami carried out limited renovations — just enough to produce more than half of his pre-war output of around 800 tons a year

ALEPPO: After years of war, the scent of laurel oil once again wafts from a small soap workshop in Aleppo, signaling the revival of a landmark trade in the battered northern city.
Surrounding soap workshops in the Al-Nayrab district still lie in ruins, badly damaged in the four-year battle for the former opposition stronghold. But for Ali Shami, hanging up his apron was not an option.
“I never stopped making soap throughout the war — even if it was just a little,” says the 44-year-old, who fled his home city during the fighting.
“But this workshop is special,” he tells AFP. “It was here that I started more than 30 years ago.”
Shami reopened his soap workshop last month after shutting it down in 2012, when Syria’s second city became a main front in the eight-year-long conflict.
The scars of war are still visible on the building, its walls punctured with holes caused by shelling. Rushes of wind gust through the gaps.
Shami carried out limited renovations — just enough to produce more than half of his pre-war output of around 800 tons a year.
He installed a new metal door and refurbished the main rooms where the soap mixture is heated and then poured out to dry.
He watches as five workers stir a thick mixture of olive and laurel oil in a large vat.
Beside them, another five workers slice cooled and hardened green paste into cubes and stack them in staggered racks.
Shami says he was able to resume operations quickly because Aleppo soap is handmade.
Its production “relies on manual labor, a successful mixture, the passion of Aleppo’s residents, and their love of the profession,” he says.
After closing down in 2012, Shami tried to continue his work in other major Syrian cities. “My existence is tied to the existence” of soap, he says.
He moved to the capital, Damascus, and the regime-held coastal city of Tartous, but Shami says the soap was not as good.
“Aleppo’s climate is very suitable for soap production and the people of Aleppo know the secret of the trade and how to endure the hardship of the many stages of its production,” he says.
Shami, who inherited the soap business from his father and grandfather, boasts about the superior qualities of Aleppo soap, the oldest of its kind in the world.
“Aleppo soap distinguishes itself from other soaps around the world as it is made almost entirely of olive oil,” he says.
“European soap, on the other hand, includes animal fats, while soaps made in Asia are mixed with vegetal oils but not olive oil,” he says.
The Aleppo region is well-known for its olive oil and sweet bay oil, or laurel.
Shami says the Aleppo soap industry was hit hard by the fierce clashes that rocked his home city, before ending in late 2016 when the army took back opposition districts with Russian military support.
While conditions are less dangerous today, soap producers still grapple with shortages of raw material and skilled labor, he says.
“We are struggling with the aftermath of the battles,” he says.
Dozens of soap producers are still waiting to complete renovations before reopening their workshops. Hisham Gebeily is one of them.
His soap-making center in the Old City of Aleppo, named after the family, has survived for generations, dating back to the 18th century.
The three-story stone workshop covers a space of around 9,000 square meters, and is considered among the largest in the city.
But the 50-year-old man was forced to close it in 2012.
The structure still stands, although damaged by the fighting: Parts of it have been charred by shelling and wooden beams supporting the roof are starting to fall apart.
“Before the conflict, the city of Aleppo housed around 100 soap factories,” he says.