Syrian Refugee Child Brides Provoke Concerns For Human Rights

From the Syrian war kicking off in 2011 to the present day, child marriage has endured a dramatic increase, escalating from 15% to 36% in the region, causing concerns for human rights. Child marriages are more common now than ever among the vulnerable Syrian refugee populations according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The United Nations Children’s Agency (UNICEF) also highlights that around 1 in 5 Syrian girls are aged between 15 and 19 in surrounding regions where they have sought refuge. Poverty is a major driver among these families to marry off their daughters, making it more difficult and thus leaving a legacy of struggle for the refugees who have been forced to flee Syria.

Child brides are confined to situations where they are likely to be exposed to domestic violence. No matter the justification provided by families, the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) consolidates that child marriage is “a violation of human rights and a form of violence against girls.” Families are conditionally marrying off their daughters to ease any existing financial burdens and to ‘protect’ them from the social structures beyond their homeland. Salwa Al Homsi, a spokesperson for Kafa suggests that the issue “is escalating … because they are living in a very closed community.”

Allowing girls to marry young is no way to ease existing tensions. Continual awareness of the consequences of early marriage among refugee communities is primal, as is being in pursuit for a law to ensure that 18 years is the minimum age for marriage. Young girls living in poverty are considered most vulnerable, and by marrying so young, research by UNICEF reveals that they will perpetuate the ongoing cycle of poverty. As Robert Jenkins, the head of UNICEF in Jordan puts it, “Our first line of defence is prevention (of early marriage).” With support of such agencies, awareness and education of the consequences to prevent such acts would be in favour of human rights.

The war in Syria has no doubt generated profound effects beyond its very own borders. With Syrians have no greater alternative than to flee for safety in neighbouring countries and cities, poverty and social unrest is what they descend into. The war has imposed incessant conditions which have shown to prompt families to marry off their daughters. European countries are continually fostering large numbers of Syrians seeking refuge as a result of the war. Further pushing their economic situations into desolation, young girls become more at risk being in the hands of their families who do not receive the same rights to work in the countries they have migrated into. Child brides are obscured from these harsh realities, leaving families to lose sight of the aspects that drive early marriage.

United Nations and Jordanian officials reveal that with “Syrians expected to remain in exile for years, it’s a harmful trend for refugees and their overburdened host countries.” Arbitrarily, BBC News suggests that only political solutions could put an end to these conflicts in Syria and return to peace. Jordan’s chief justice reports to Al Jazeera that new stipulations will aim to allow girls the right to demand a marriage contract with conditions that allow them to complete their education and work. On the other hand, UNICEF’s Maha Homsi suggests, “It is working with the Sharia courts and religious leaders to promote the right of girls to education and to break the cycle of poverty.” All methods of which aim to adhere to human rights standards and to continually strive for perpetual peace.