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Syrian Arab Republic

Taux de mariages d'enfants
UNICEF 2017 % mariées avant l’âge de 15 ans
3%
UNICEF 2017 % mariées avant l’âge de 18 ans
13%

* Références

Fait référence au pourcentage de femmes âgées de 20 à 24 ans qui ont été mariées ou en concubinage avant le l’âge de 15 ou 18 ans.

Photo credit: Adam Patterson | Panos/DFID

Taux de mariages d'enfants
UNICEF 2017 % mariées avant l’âge de 15 ans
3%
UNICEF 2017 % mariées avant l’âge de 18 ans
13%

* Références

Fait référence au pourcentage de femmes âgées de 20 à 24 ans qui ont été mariées ou en concubinage avant le l’âge de 15 ou 18 ans.

What's the child marriage rate? How big of an issue is child marriage?

The most recent available data from 2006 shows that 13% of Syrian girls are married before the age of 18 and 3% are married before their 15th birthday. These prevalence rates may have changed significantly since conflict in the country began.

The most recent available data shows that child marriage was most prevalent in Daraa (where 26% of women aged 20-49 were married before the age of 18), Rural-Damascus (25%) and Quneitra (23%). Child marriage occurred in both rural and urban areas of Syria as of 2006.

Are there country-specific drivers of child marriage in this country?

Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that girls are somehow inferior to boys.

Since the conflict started in March 2011, over half of Syria’s pre-war population has been displaced, either within the country (with 6.1 million internally displaced people) or across borders (with at least 5.6 million Syrians displaced in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and other countries).

This unprecedented situation has exacerbated the practice of child marriage at an alarming rate. Humanitarian settings like in Syria exacerbate poverty, insecurity, and lack of access to services such as education – factors which all drive child marriage. While gender inequality is a root cause of child marriage in both stable and crisis contexts, often in times of crisis, families see child marriage as a way to cope with greater economic hardship and to protect girls from increased violence.

Due to the state of conflict and devastation in Syria, there is limited information available, but available studies show that the practice is exacerbated by:

  • Displacement: The onset of war and the mass displacement of millions of refugees has led to a dramatic rise in the number of girls married as children in neighbouring countries, including Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. For example, according to a 2018 study, 29% of Syrian girls aged 15-19 displaced in Lebanon are married. The marriage is often arranged by families to protect their daughters from sexual abuse in camps (as well as the family honour) and to provide them with security. Additionally, families struggle to survive on few resources and marry off their daughters to reduce their perceived economic burden. A 2017 study found that many Syrian families recognise the harm of child marriage, but have few alternative options in refugee camps. Girls who are displaced inside Syria are likely facing similar problems. However, there is limited data about the current situation of girls in the country.
  • Conflict: A number of reports show that armed groups inside Syria and neighbouring Iraq are using child and forced marriage as well as sexual violence as weapons of war to panic, intimidate and displace populations.
  • Harmful traditional practices: A 2013 UN Women study found that child marriage is an accepted traditional Syrian practice that predates the crisis. Many refugees interviewed in the study did not identify child marriage as a negative issue impacting refugees. They noted, however, that practices had changed in camps and girls were marrying older men who are considered better protectors.

Trafficking: A 2016 report highlights that some child marriages among Syrian refugees are arranged by brokers and result in girls being forced into sexual slavery. Some mothers have expressed concern about letting their daughters leave camps as external men reportedly search for Syrian girls to marry. 

What has this country committed to?

Syria has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Syria ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1993, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 2003, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

In 2019, the Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed serious concerns about the increase in marriages of girls under the age of 18 since the beginning of the armed conflict, many of them perpetrated both by security forces and Islamist fighters. The Committee urged Syria to:

  • Amend its legislation to raise the minimum age of marriage for girls to 18 and to remove all exceptions.
  • Promptly investigate, prosecute and sanction perpetrators.
  • Establish a mechanism for reporting cases of child marriage.
  • Develop awareness-raising campaigns on the harmful effects of child marriage.

During its 2016 Universal Periodic Review, Syria agreed to examine recommendations to protect girls from child marriage.

In 2019, at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, Syria committed to reducing the rate of early marriage from 13% to 5% through legislation and interventional policy programs.

What is the government doing to address this at the national level?

As reported by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour in 2020, a Child Rights Law is being developed which would raise the minimum age for marriage to 18 for women. Interventional policy programmes are also reportedly being prepared to address early marriage in Syria. However, the situation in Syria is not conducive to legislative and policy progress.

The UN Humanitarian Response Plan 2019 for Syria includes provisions to mitigate child marriage, among other key concerns.

It is very difficult for registered NGOs to work in Syria or gain access. Security concerns and restrictions on the type of projects that can be implemented make it difficult to address issues of child protection.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

Under the Syrian Personal Status Law the minimum legal age of marriage is 18 years for boys and 17 years for girls. However girls are able to marry at 13 years and boys at 15 years with judicial consent.

Source

BBC News, Child brides: the Syrian girls pushed into early marriage, [website], 2016, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-37617523 (accessed March 2020).

CARE International, “To protect her honour”: child marriage in emergencies – the fatal confusion between protecting girls and sexual violence, 2015, https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/resource-centre/to-protect-her-honour-child-marriage-in-emergencies-the-fatal-confusion-between-protecting-girls-and-sexual-violence/ (accessed March 2020).

Central Bureau of Statistics, Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2006, 2008, https://mics-surveys-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/MICS3/Middle%20East%20and%20North%20Africa/Syrian%20Arab%20Republic/2006/Final/Syrian%20Arab%20Republic%202006%20MICS_English.pdf (accessed March 2020).

Freedom Fund, Struggling to survive: slavery and exploitation of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, 2016, https://d1r4g0yjvcc7lx.cloudfront.net//wp-content/uploads/Lebanon-Report-FINAL-8April16.pdf (accessed March 2020). 

Girls Not Brides, Child marriage and the Syrian conflict: 7 things you need to know, [website], 2018, https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/child-marriage-and-the-syrian-conflict-7-things-you-need-to-know/ (accessed March 2020).

Mourtada, R., A qualitative study exploring child marriage practices among Syrian conflict-affected populations in Lebanon, 2017, https://resourcecentre.savethechildren.net/node/12778/pdf/childmarriage_syria.pdf (accessed March 2020). 

Nairobi Summit, Reducing the rate of early marriage from 13% to 5%, [website], 2020, http://www.nairobisummiticpd.org/commitment/reducing-rate-early-marriage-13-5-0 (accessed March 2020).

OCHA, Syria, [website], https://www.unocha.org/syria (accessed March 2020).

UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations on the fifth periodic report of the Syrian Arab Republic, 2019, p. 4 and 8, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CRC%2fC%2fSYR%2fCO%2f5&Lang=en(accessed March 2020).

UN ESCWA, Child Marriage in Humanitarian Settings in the Arab Region, 2015, https://www.unescwa.org/publications/child-marriage-humanitarian-settings-arab-region-dynamics-challenges-and-policy-options (accessed April 2020).

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Syrian Arab Republic, 2016, p.24, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/SYindex.aspx (accessed March 2020).

UN Women, Gender-based violence and child protection among Syrian refugees in Jordan, with a focus on early marriage, 2013, http://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2013/7/report-web%20pdf.pdf?la=en&vs=1458(accessed March 2020).

UN, Humanitarian Response Plan January-December 2019, August 2019, https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/sites/www.humanitarianresponse.info/files/documents/files/2019_hrp_syria.pdf (accessed March 2020). 

UNFPA, New study finds child marriage rising among most vulnerable Syrian refugees, [website], 2017, https://www.unfpa.org/news/new-study-finds-child-marriage-rising-among-most-vulnerable-syrian-refugees (accessed March 2020).

UNICEF, et al., Child marriage in humanitarian settings: spotlight on the situation in the Arab region, 2018, https://www.girlsnotbrides.es/resource-centre/child-marriage-in-humanitarian-settings-spotlight-on-the-situation-in-the-arab-region/?view_original (accessed March 2020).

UNICEF, UNHCR, and WFP, Vulnerability Assessment for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon (VASyR-2018), 2018, https://www.wfp.org/publications/vulnerability-assessment-syrian-refugees-lebanon-vasyr-2018 (accessed March 2020).

United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg5 (accessed March 2020).

Fait référence au pourcentage de femmes âgées de 20 à 24 ans qui ont été mariées ou en concubinage avant le l’âge de 15 ou 18 ans.