What's the child marriage rate? How big of an issue is child marriage?
There is no publicly available government data on child marriage in the United Arab Emirates.
Are there country-specific drivers of child marriage in this country?
Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that women and girls are somehow inferior to men and boys. There is limited information on child marriage in the United Arab Emirates, but available studies show that it is driven by:
- Trafficking: Girls as young as 11 and 12 are reportedly trafficked into the United Arab Emirates under the guise of legal marriages. Once they arrive, they are divorced and forced into work. According to a 2015 report, men from the United Arab Emirates purchase Egyptian women and girls for “temporary” or “summer” marriages for the purpose of forced labour or prostitution. These marriages are often facilitated by the girls’ parents and marriage brokers who profit from the transaction.
What has this country committed to?
The United Arab Emirates has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. The government did not provide an update on progress towards this target during its Voluntary National Review at the 2018 High Level Political Forums, the mechanism through which countries report their progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.
The United Arab Emirates acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1997, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 2004, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage. It agreed to abide by the provisions of Article 16, to ensure equality in marriage, insofar as they are not in conflict with the principles of Shariah law.
During its 2017 Universal Periodic Review, concerns were raised about the persistence of unregistered child marriages and the permitting of underage marriages by judges.
The CEDAW Committee has raised concerns about patriarchal attitudes and male guardianship over women and girls in the country, particularly the impossibility of Emirati women to sign their own marriage contracts, the continued practice of dowry and obligations on women to obey their husbands.
What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?
Under the Federal Law on Personal Status 2005 the minimum legal age of marriage is 18 years. However individuals who have reached puberty may marry before 18 years, with judicial consent.
ECPAT, Sex trafficking on children in the Middle East, [undated], http://www.ecpat.org/wp-content/uploads/legacy/Factsheet_Middle_East.pdf (accessed June 2018)
FIDH, Women’s Rights in the United Arab Emirates, 2010,
https://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/UAE_summaryreport_for_CEDAW.pdf (accessed May 2018)
UN General Assembly, Compilation on the United Arab Emirates Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2017, p.5, p.7,
https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/AEIndex.aspx (accessed May 2018)
United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg5 (accessed February 2018)
United States State Department, Trafficking in Persons Report, 2015, https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/243559.pdf (accessed March 2018)
* 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)