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Lebanon

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
1%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
6%

* References

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)

Photo credit: Adam Patterson | Panos | DFID

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
1%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
6%

* References

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)

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

According to the latest available data from 2009, 6% of Lebanese girls are married before their 18th birthday and 1% are married before the age of 15.

Refugee girls in Lebanon are at heightened risk of child marriage. According to a 2018 study, 29% of Syrian girls aged 15-19 displaced in Lebanon are married. According to 2016 UNICEF data, 12% of Palestinian refugees from Lebanon and 25% of Palestinian refugees from Syria.

Lebanon has no minimum legal age for marriage for all of its citizens as it differs across religions. Religious courts set the age based on 15 different personal status laws, some of which allow girls younger than 15 to marry. This is a main obstacle to addressing child marriage at national level in Lebanon. 

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.

As of 2020, Lebanon has taken in 1.5 million refugees since war erupted in neighbouring Syria in 2011 as well as refugees from Palestine, making it the country with highest concentration per capita of refugees in the world. Countrywide anti-establishment protests since October 2019 have sent Lebanon’s economy in free fall and are hitting vulnerable Lebanese and refugees hard.

Humanitarian settings like in Lebanon 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. In Lebanon, child marriage is exacerbated by:

  • Family honour: The concept of al Sutra encourages families to protect their daughter’s honour and virginity. Some Syrian families are concerned about girls’ exposure to Lebanese social norms which are more liberal.
  • Religion: The minimum age for marriage differs across religions. According to a 2015 report, for Sunni communities it is 17, for Shiite it is puberty, for Druze it is 17, for Greek Catholics it is 14, for Greek Armenian and Assyrian Orthodox it is 14, for Evangelical it is 16 and for the Eastern Assyrian church it is 15. The lack of an unified law and its legality perpetuates child marriage. Additionally, conservative customs prevail across religions, and generally encourage the “safeguarding” of girls from immoral behaviour by marrying them off young.
  • Gender norms: The role of women and girls has been stereotyped within Lebanese society. Being a housewife and marrying early are seen as prime achievements and those who marry late are often considered to have limited chances in life.

Displacement: Palestinian and Syrian refugee girls are increasingly entering into child marriages, especially in Bekaa Valley, Akkar (north Lebanon). It is even increasing among displaced urban Syrian communities (areas where child marriage was not commonly practiced before the conflict). It is often arranged by families to protect their daughters from sexual abuse within camps (as well as the family honour) and to provide them with security. Those living outside tented settlements have greater concerns about their daughters’ security. The lack of access to education and the need of families to reduce the perceived economic burden also drives families to marry their daughters early. A 2016 report highlights that some child marriages among Syrian refugees are arranged by brokers and result in girls being forced into sexual slavery. A 2017 study found that many Syrian families recognise the harm of child marriage, but have few alternative options in refugee camps. Engagement periods are becoming shorter and girls are being married off quickly.

What has this country committed to?

Lebanon has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. While the government did not provide an update on progress towards this target during its Voluntary National Review at the 2018 High Level Political Forum, it is mentioned that In August 2017 Parliament abolished article 522 of the penal code that had allowed prosecution to drop charges against a rapist if he marries his victim.

Lebanon co-sponsored the 2013, 2014 and 2018 UN General Assembly resolutions on child, early and forced marriage, and co-sponsored the 2013 Human Rights Council resolution on child, early and forced marriage.

Lebanon ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, 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 1997, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

In 2017, the Child Rights Committee expressed serious concerned that the minimum age of marriage is 14 years for girls and 16 years for boys and even younger in certain circumstances, according to the personal status laws of the different religious communities. The Committee urged Lebanon to adopt legislation setting at 18 years the minimum age for girls and boys, engage with the religious authorities to prohibit child marriages, and adopt a national strategy on child marriages.

During its 2015 Universal Periodic Review, Lebanon agreed to examine recommendations to adopt laws to increase the age of criminal responsibility and to eliminate child and forced marriage.

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

The Lebanon Crisis Response Plan, produced in collaboration between the Lebanese Government and the UN in the frame of the Syrian crisis, aims to reduce child marriage by 20% by 2020. The 2019 updated version includes objectives to reduce the exposure to negative coping mechanisms, including child marriage.

A proposal to establish a national minimum marriage age at 18 for women and men has been under consideration within the Lebanese Parliament, notwithstanding any other provision of law. It was introduced in 2017 and, despide growing public pressure, as of March 2020 there are no news about the passing of this law. Lebanese NGOs have demanded that some some part of the proposal are further clarified, for instance, the situation of girls already married.

The Lebanese Higher Council for Childhood is leading development of a national strategy and action plan to specifically address child marriage.

The Hezbollah (Shi’a militant group and political party) is strongly opposed to any efforts to address child marriage.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

Lebanon has no minimum legal age for marriage for all of its citizens or any civil code regulating personal status matters. Instead, religious courts set the age based on 15 different personal status laws, some of which allow girls younger than 15 to marry. Therefore, the minimum age for marriage depends on the person civil registration under a specific sect.

Source

ABAAD and Arab Institute for Human Rights, Regional seminar on child marriage: during democratic transition and armed conflicts, 2015, http://www.abaadmena.org/documents/ebook.1491819977.pdf (accessed March 2020). 

Arab News, Hundreds protest against child marriage in Lebanon, [website], 2019, https://www.arabnews.com/node/1460351/middle-east (accessed March 2020).

European Commission, Lebanon, [website], 2020, https://ec.europa.eu/echo/where/middle-east/lebanon_en (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). 

Gender & Adolescence: Global Evidence, Adolescent girls in Lebanon: The state of the evidence, 2017, https://www.gage.odi.org/publication/adolescent-girls-lebanon-state-of-evidence/ (accessed March 2020).

Government of Lebanon and United Nations, Lebanon Crisis Response Plan 2017-2020 (2019 updated),  2019, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/67780 (accessed March 2020).

Government of Lebanon and United Nations, Lebanon Crisis Response Plan 2017-2020,  2017, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/2017_2020_LCRP_ENG-1.pdf (accessed March 2020).

Lebanon, Voluntary National Review (VNR), 2018, p. 30, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/19624LebanonVNR2018.pdf (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). 

Save the Children, “No, I Don’t”: Abolishing Child Marriage in Lebanon, 2019, https://resourcecentre.savethechildren.net/library/no-i-dont-abolishing-child-marriage-lebanon (accessed March 2020).

Track Persia, Support child marriage, says Iran-backed Hezbolla, [website], 2017, http://www.trackpersia.com/support-child-marriage-says-iran-backed-hezbollah/ (accessed March 2020).

UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations on the combined fourth and fifth periodic report of Lebanon, 2017, p. 4 and 7, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CRC%2fC%2fLBN%2fCO%2f4-5&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: Lebanon,2015, p.16, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/LBIndex.aspx (accessed March 2020).

UNHCR, Lebanon, [website], 2020, http://reporting.unhcr.org/node/2520 (accessed March 2020).

UNICEF DATA, Child marriage, October 2019, https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-protection/child-marriage/ (accessed March 2020).

UNICEF MENA, Child Marriage in the Middle East and North Africa. A multi-country study, 2017, https://www.unicef.org/mena/reports/child-marriage-middle-east-and-north-africa (accessed March 2020).

UNICEF, Child Marriage in the Middle East and North Africa – Lebanon Country Brief, 2017, https://www.unicef.org/mena/media/1806/file/MENA-CMReport-LebanonBrief.pdf%20.pdf (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).

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)