COVID-19 sparks pandemic of underage marriage in Jordan

COVID-19 sparks pandemic of underage marriage in Jordan
A young actress plays the role of a girl forced to marry an older man during an event organised by Amnesty International to denounce child marriage. (AFP)
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Updated 12 August 2021

COVID-19 sparks pandemic of underage marriage in Jordan

COVID-19 sparks pandemic of underage marriage in Jordan
  • Sharia courts grant nearly 8,000 marriages in 2020 involving girls under the age of 18
  • Campaigners call for a change in the law that allows exceptions for adolescents

AMMAN: Underage marriage in Jordan surged last year during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic due to increased financial hardship among poorer families, human rights groups warned.

The number of underage marriages registered in Sharia courts jumped by almost 12 percent from 2019 to 2020, according to new data from the Chief Islamic Justice Department.

While Jordanian civil law puts the legal age for marriage at 18 for both men and women, it also allows for exceptions for those aged 15 and above if a judge deems it in their best interests.

The sharp increase has led to calls for a change in the law and, in the meantime, a push to pressure judges to reduce the number of marriages granted.

Secretary-General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women Salma Al-Nims blamed the pandemic and the resulting economic burdens, and school dropout rates for the “skyrocketing” increase in underage marriages.   

“From the very beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the commission has been warning that distance learning would deepen social problems and would increase child labor and school dropouts and, consequently, underage marriage,” Al-Nims told Arab News.

“Only yesterday, I heard that a 15-year-old girl got married and when I inquired about the reason, I learned that her family said ‘yes’ because the groom was rich. How come the judge approved it?”

Of the 67,389 marriage contracts registered in 2020 in Sharia courts, 7,964 were for girls under the age of 18. This compares to 7,224 in 2019 after the numbers had decreased from a peak of more than 10,000 in 2016.

Even more worrying is that the 2020 figure includes more than 2,000 marriages involving girls aged 15. Just 194 of the marriages included boys aged under 18.

Lawyer and human rights activist Saddam Abu Azzam described the increase in child marriage cases as “horrific” and “stomach-turning.”

“Even if it was a single case, that figure is still high,” Abu Azzam, director of the Jordanian parliament’s research center, said.   

He argued that approving marriages for girls and boys under 18 years of age is a “violation” of basic human rights, attributing the increase to Jordanian laws and a lobby of Sharia judges obstructing efforts to completely ban the marriage of adolescents.

“Those judges, unfortunately, believe that child marriage is Islamic and is an answer to several economic and social problems,” he said.

Abu Azzam called for abolishing the section of the law that says exceptions can be made for some under the age of 18.

“The problem is that Sharia judges misuse the law and expand the exceptions granted to them and the proof for that is in the increasing cases of child marriage,” he said.

Abu Azzam said that while marriage is viewed as bringing stability, prosperity, and social cohesion, the highest divorce rates in the Arab region are registered in Jordan and most are among couples less than 28 years of age. More than 90 percent of child marriages end in divorce, Abu Azzam said.

The Solidarity Is Global Institute in Jordan (SIGI), a charity that published a report on the figures, has also called for a law change.

In 2018, the group launched a national campaign to eradicate child marriage named “Nujoud” after a 10-year-old Yemeni girl who was physically and sexually abused during a two-month marriage allowed by the courts.

The Chief Islamic Justice Department said child marriage is more prominent among Jordan’s Syrian refugee population, who are “increasingly relying on child marriage as a coping mechanism.”

The department said that in 2018, one in three of the registered marriages of Syrians in Jordan involved someone under the age of 18.

According to UNICEF, family disintegration, poverty, and lack of education are considered to be some of the key factors behind an increase in the rate of child marriage among refugees.

The increase in Jordan is mirrored globally with 37,000 girls under the age of 18 married every day. According to the UN, one in three girls in the developing world are married before they reach 18 and one in nine before 15.

“If present trends continue, more than 140 million girls will be married before the age of 18 in the next decade,” the UN said in a 2019 report.

In Jordan, campaigners are at least pushing for judges to make a difference between biological maturity and social and economic maturity when they grant permission for marriages.

“Many Islamic schools define ‘competence’ as social and economic maturity rather than biological maturity,” Al-Nims said.

“Instead of limiting the exceptions granted to them, judges are unfortunately expanding them. The problem in Jordan is the fact that there is really a lack of institutionalized efforts to completely end child marriage.”


Abu Dhabi crown prince, Blinken discuss regional issues

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed held a phone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. (File/Wikipedia)
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed held a phone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. (File/Wikipedia)
Updated 05 December 2021

Abu Dhabi crown prince, Blinken discuss regional issues

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed held a phone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. (File/Wikipedia)
  • Blinken thanked the UAE for hosting and facilitating the safe transit of US citizens, embassy personnel, and foreign nationals from Afghanistan
  • UAE foreign minister held separate talks with his counterparts from Oman, India and Sri Lanka

LONDON: Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed spoke with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday to discuss “important regional matters,” the US State Department said.
Sheikh Mohammed and Blinken “reaffirmed their countries’ strong partnership and discussed ways to broaden and deepen their wide-ranging cooperation,” spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
“Blinken also thanked the crown prince for the UAE’s generous support in hosting and facilitating the safe transit of US citizens, embassy personnel, and foreign nationals from Afghanistan to third countries, and commended the UAE for providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan,” Price added.
Meanwhile, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed held separate talks with his counterparts from Oman, India and Sri Lanka on the sidelines of the two-day 5th Indian Ocean Conference, which kicked off on Saturday in Abu Dhabi.
During the meetings, Sheikh Abdullah discussed strategic relations and ways to enhance prospects for joint cooperation in all fields, as well as the latest regional and international developments.
Sheikh Abdullah welcomed Oman’s Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr Al-Busaidi, and stressed the depth of the relations between the UAE and the sultanate.
India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar praised the strong friendship between the UAE and his country, and their strategic partnership which is witnessing continuous growth and development.
Sheikh Abdullah also welcomed Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Gamini Lakshman Pierce to Abu Dhabi and the two sides discussed bilateral relations and ways to support them in various fields, including tourism.


Jordan’s FM, US climate envoy discuss environmental protection

Jordan’s FM, US climate envoy discuss environmental protection
Updated 05 December 2021

Jordan’s FM, US climate envoy discuss environmental protection

Jordan’s FM, US climate envoy discuss environmental protection
  • Safadi and Kerry stressed the importance of the strategic partnership between Jordan and the US

LONDON: Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi held talks with US special envoy for climate, John Kerry, on Sunday to discuss environmental protection and confronting climate change.
“Safadi and Kerry stressed the importance of the strategic partnership between the kingdom and the US, and reviewed ways to enhance cooperation between the two countries,” Jordanian state news agency Petra reported.
Safadi praised the aid provided by the US to the Kingdom and its support for economic development, stressing the importance of its leading role in efforts to resolving regional crises and achieve peace and stability.
Kerry said that Jordan was a strong and essential ally of the US, and that his country appreciated the key role and efforts led by King Abdullah II to overcome regional challenges and achieve security, stability and peace.
Kerry reiterated Washington’s support for Jordan, including in the areas of environmental protection, facing the challenges of climate change, and developing clean energy and water sources.
“This engagement with government counterparts aims to accelerate global climate action following the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November,” the US State Department said in a statement.
It added that Kerry would discuss how the region could collaborate to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change.


Aboul Gheit: Iran seeks to control Straits of Hormuz and Bab Al-Mandab

Aboul Gheit: Iran seeks to control Straits of Hormuz and Bab Al-Mandab
Updated 05 December 2021

Aboul Gheit: Iran seeks to control Straits of Hormuz and Bab Al-Mandab

Aboul Gheit: Iran seeks to control Straits of Hormuz and Bab Al-Mandab
  • Aboul Gheit said that Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons would trigger an arms race in the region

CAIRO: The Secretary-General of the League of Arab States Ahmed Aboul Gheit has said that Iran aims to extend its control over the Straits of Hormuz and Bab Al-Mandab, either directly or through militias it funds.

During his participation in the seventh Rome-Mediterranean Dialogue, held in the Italian capital with the participation of senior officials, experts and economists from countries bordering the shores of the Mediterranean, he pointed to attacks carried out by Iran in the summer of 2019, as well as to the continuing threat posed by the Houthis to navigation in the Red Sea.

The secretary-general added that the stability of navigation in these strategic straits, especially in the transportation of petroleum products, represented a fundamental backbone of the global economy, and that maintaining freedom of navigation without threat was a global priority and not only for the Arab countries bordering it.

He said that Iran’s behavior in the region, and its apparent tendency to dominate and interfere with Arab countries, was behind the difficulty in establishing a security system in the Gulf based on cooperation and the common welfare of the people.

He said that several initiatives had been put forward on this, but the main problem remained a lack of confidence due to Iranian policies that represented a threat to its neighbors.

Aboul Gheit said that Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons would trigger an arms race in the region. He hoped negotiations would succeed in dissuading Iran from achieving this goal to avoid a deterioration in the current security situation.

He said it was difficult to address the Iranian nuclear program without acknowledging that there was already a nuclear power in the region in Israel, especially in light of its insistence on destroying the two-state solution and wasting opportunities for its implementation.


Explosions heard near Syria-Iraq border, rebels deny blasts inside US base

Explosions heard near Syria-Iraq border, rebels deny blasts inside US base
Updated 05 December 2021

Explosions heard near Syria-Iraq border, rebels deny blasts inside US base

Explosions heard near Syria-Iraq border, rebels deny blasts inside US base
  • US-backed rebel group Maghawir Al-Thawra say the blasts were part of joint ground and air exercises that began earlier this week
  • The garrison was first set up when Daesh fighters controlled eastern Syria bordering Iraq

DUBAI/AMMAN: Syrian state television reported on Sunday that multiple explosions had been heard inside a US base in the Al-Tanf region near the Iraqi border.
The report was denied, however, by a commander in the US-backed rebel group Maghawir Al-Thawra, whose several hundred fighters work with US troops at the Tanf base, who said the blasts were part of joint ground and air exercises that began earlier this week and did not come from inside the base.
The garrison is located in a strategic area near Syria’s Tanf border crossing with Iraq at the crossroad of a main Baghdad-Damascus highway, Tehran’s main arms supply route by land to Syria and Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah militia.
Several drones attacked the outskirts of the base last October but there were no American casualties, according to US officials.
While it is not common for attacks on the US troops at the outpost, Iranian-backed forces have frequently attacked American troops with drones and rockets in eastern Syria and Iraq. .
Russia and the Syrian government have repeatedly called on Washington to pull its troops from the Tanf base, where it has declared a 55 km (35 mile)-radius “deconfliction zone.”
The garrison was first set up when Daesh fighters controlled eastern Syria bordering Iraq, but since the militants were driven out Tanf has assumed a role as part of a US strategy to contain Iran’s military build-up in eastern Syria.


Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Vatican meeting to discuss Document on Human Fraternity

Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Vatican meeting to discuss Document on Human Fraternity
Updated 05 December 2021

Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Vatican meeting to discuss Document on Human Fraternity

Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Vatican meeting to discuss Document on Human Fraternity
  • The two discussed their vision of what the relationship between followers of religions should be
  • Last month, Sheikh Al-Tayeb met Pope Francis on the sidelines of the Religious Leaders on Climate Change summit

Cairo: Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, held a meeting in the Vatican with Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, to discuss how to implement the provisions of the Document on Human fraternity for World Peace and Living Together.

This joint statement, which was signed by Pope Francis of the Catholic Church and Sheikh Al-Tayeb on Feb. 4, 2019, in Abu Dhabi, includes various proposed solutions from a religious standpoint to the current problems facing the world.

During the meeting Sheikh Al-Tayeb said that “the relationship of Al-Azhar and the Vatican remains an effective and real model for spreading tolerance and peace and combating extremism, hatred, wars and conflicts, and that the path of peace and dialogue is a difficult path, but the path is moving and making efforts,” adding that the world is in urgent need of the values of brotherhood, peaceful coexistence and respect for the other.

He stressed that religious leaders and scholars have a religious and societal duty to confront negative phenomena, especially with regard to moral aspects.

The two discussed their vision of what the relationship between followers of religions should be, and the role that religions should play in our contemporary world. The document seeks to activate dialogue about coexistence among human beings.

Ayuso said that the Grand Imam and His Holiness Pope Francis had the courage to fight battles for the good of humanity, and that the signing of the Document on Human Fraternity was not an easy thing.

But their persistence and sincerity helped to break barriers and repair broken bridges between some Muslims and Christians, and continued the dialogue between Al-Azhar and the Vatican after a rupture of nearly six years. They said they had begun to reap the fruits of this document in a rapprochement not only at the level of official institutions and institutes, but also between individuals among the wider masses.

Ayuso spoke about the great efforts of the Higher Committee for Human Fraternity that emerged from the document, noting that this committee includes religious and cultural leaders from different ethnic, social and cultural backgrounds around the world.

He said that even in their diversity the members of the committee represent a group of friends loyal to their humanity, united by their concern to work for mankind and end its suffering. They seek to replace hatred with love and intolerance with dialogue, especially between young people, to ensure healthy relations and a better future for coming generations.

Last month, Sheikh Al-Tayeb met Pope Francis on the sidelines of the Religious Leaders on Climate Change summit, where they said that returning to the teachings of religions is the way to save the world from extremism and division.