Child marriage by 15
Child marriage by 18
|Are there Girls Not Brides members?||7|
|Does this country have a national strategy or plan?||Developing|
|Is there a Girls Not Brides National Partnership or coalition?||No|
|Age of marriage without consent or exceptions taken into account||Minimum legal age of marriage below 18 years|
What's the prevalence rate?
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 are married.
Lebanon has no minimum legal age for marriage for all 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 the national level in Lebanon.
What drives child marriage in Lebanon?
Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that girls are somehow inferior to boys.
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 a 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 inequality: 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.
COVID-19: The COVID-19 pandemic as well as the ongoing economic crisis has had a significant impact on some of the poorest households and has exacerbated the vulnerability of children. The pandemic exposed vulnerable families to loss of financial income pushing them further into poverty and exclusion.
Humanitarian settings can encompass a wide range of situations before, during and after natural disasters, conflicts, and epidemics. They exacerbate poverty, insecurity, and lack of access to services such as education, factors which all drive child marriage. While gender inequality is a root case of child marriage in both stable and crisis contexts, often in times of crisis, families see child marriages as a way to cope with greater economic hardship and to protect girls from increased violence.
Lebanon remains the country hosting the world's largest number of refugees per capita with an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees as of August 2021. As of 2021, there are approximately 16,000 Ethiopian, Sudanese and Iraqi refugees and 200,000 Palestinian refugees. Countrywide anti-establishment protests since October 2019 have sent Lebanon’s economy into free fall and are hitting vulnerable Lebanese and refugees hard. This coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic and the explosion in the Beirut port in August 2020 has prolonged the nature of the refugee situation and caused a rise in extreme poverty.
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 international, regional and national commitments has Lebanon made?
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. The government has not submitted a Voluntary National Review in any High-Level Political Forum to date.
Lebanon co-sponsored the 2013, 2014 , 2018 and 2020 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 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed serious concern 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.
In the 2020 Universal Periodic Review, it was noted that the Ministry of Social Affairs is in the process of drafting a national strategy regarding early marriage in order to respond and prevent child marriage. Discussions for the proposed law to regulate child marriage are undergoing. 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.
In 2020, the Human Rights Committee recommended that Lebanon introduce the option of civil marriage to all citizens and set the minimum legal age for marriage at 18. The Committee also engaged with religious authorities to prohibit child marriage and recommended the adoption of a national strategy. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed concern at the high number of reported cases of child and/or forced marriage among Syrian refugee women and girls. They recommended the government establish a system to collect data on gender-based violence against and child/forced marriage of refugee women and girls.
What is the government doing to address child marriage?
In June 2020, the Ministry of Social Affairs, with the support of UNICEF and the European Union launched the Strategic Plan for the Protection of Women and Children 2020-2027. This plan aims to strengthen the regulatory role of child protection and protection against gender-based violence. “Qudwa”, a part of the national social behavioural change and communication strategy, aims to prevent child marriage, violence against boys and girls and child labour.
The Lebanon Crisis Response Plan (2017-2020) produced in collaboration with the Lebanese Government and various UN agencies, aim to reduce child marriage by 20% by 2020. In 2019, the update of the response plan included objectives to reduce the exposure to negative coping mechanisms, including child marriage. The response plan was formally extended in December 2020, until the end of 2021.
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, despite growing public pressure, as of March 2020 there is no news about the passing of this law. Lebanese NGOs have demanded that some parts 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 does not have a ¨Personal Status Law¨ for all of its citizens or any civil code regulating things such as legal age of marriage, divorce, inheritance or child custody.. Each one of the 18 recognised religious groups in Lebanon have set their own rules on the legal age of marriage. For example, among:
Catholics the minimum age is 16 for boys and 14 for girls.
Greek Orthodox the minimum age is 18 for both boys and girls and the granting authority is a Priest.
Sunni Muslims the minimum age is 18 for boys and 17 for girls and the granting authority is a Judge.
Shiite Muslims, the religious authorities do not allow marriage before the age of 15 or before the age of puberty and the granting authority is a Judge.
Armenian Orthodox the minimum age is 18 for boys and 14 for girls and the granting authority is the Archbishop.
Syrian Orthodox the minimum age is 18 for boys and 14 for girls.
Evangelical the minimum age is 18 for boys and 16 for girls and granting authority is a Spiritual court.
Assyrian Church of the East the minimum age is 18 for boys and 15 for girls and granting authority is a Bishop.
Jewish the minimum age is 18 for boys and 12.5 for girls and granting authority is the father.
Druze the minimum age is 18 for boys and 17 for girls and the granting authority is a Judge or Sheikh.
The lack of harmony in domestic child marriage provisions means that children, under certain circumstances, can be married as early as 14 years old. This is inconsistent with international law.
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