Hundreds of Lebanese people took to the streets of Beirut last month demanding lawmakers to ban child marriage.
In cooperation with The Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering, and The National Alliance for the Protection of Children and Girls from Early Marriage, the march, which was held early March, was titled “Victims of Early Marriage are on the Rise.” And a hashtag on social media was launched: #not_before_18.
“How does a state that prevents its youth from voting before 21, allows the registration of an underage marriage? #not_before_18 is not a choice, but a decision!” said Lebanese journalist Nancy Sabeh.
The march began around the Palace of Justice, and moved towards the Lebanese Parliament in the center of the Lebanese capital, with women making up the majority of the march.
Participants in the march covered their necks and heads with purple labels that said “Not before 18,” while girls wore wedding dresses and carried floral signs that read “Elimination of the marriage of children begins with their education,” according to local media.
According to a UNICEF report available on its website, 4.1% of Lebanese girls between 15 and 19 were married in 2016, and 6% of those between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before the age of 18.
According to Arabic news website noonpost.com, underage weddings are particularly prevalent in rural areas, and are less common in urban areas where priority is given to education, but the proportion varies from country to country. “In the Arab world, this phenomenon is spread at different rates. Sudan has 52%. underage marriages, Mauritania 35%, Yemen 32%, Palestine 21%, and Egypt 17%.”
Many international organizations like Oxfam are campaigning against child marriage, saying that it deprived of education 70% of the married girls and endangered their lives.
According to the Daily Medical Information website, “Underage girls face risks in pregnancy and childbirth. Statistics show that there are 70,000 deaths annually due to early marriage, aged 15 to 19 years.” These deaths are due to several problems faced by underage girls, such as significant postnatal weight loss, malnutrition, and delayed physical development from their peers. The health problems they face include the transmission of diseases and reproductive infections, and the elimination of girls’ health from early pregnancy.
Translation by Mira Matar