Early marriage of Syrian girls has become increasingly common due to the displacement of millions of families by Syria’s civil war. Nearly 600,000 Syrians have fled to Jordan, with many living in crowded and dangerous refugee camps. Women and girls face constant harassment and threats of sexual assault, and many remember the extensive conflict-related sexual violence perpetrated in Syria. Additionally, most refugees are poor and unemployed, having lost nearly everything in the war. Many families have come to believe that marriage is the only way to protect their daughters from violence and alleviate financial stress.
As a result, the percentage of Syrian refugees marrying before the age of 18 has more than doubled during the war years, from 13% of girls in Syria before the war to nearly 32% of Syrian girls in Jordan. Many girls marry Jordanian citizens to escape the camps. However, rather than protecting girls from violence or ensuring their financial security, early marriage often leads to an increased risk of domestic abuse and poverty. Girls who marry early generally do not finish their education. Teenage girls are also more likely to suffer serious complications in pregnancy such as eclampsia that can result in permanent injury or death.
One Syrian refugee brought his young daughter back home after her new husband beat her. He told the New York Times that, “unemployment, idleness and fear were pushing Syrian refugees to marry too quickly and that he had lost count of the people he knew who had recently married and separated.” Aid workers in the refugee camps are trying to educate displaced Syrians about the serious risks to girls and their families associated with early marriage.
Compiled from: Sweis, Rana, In Jordan, Ever Younger Syrian Brides,The New York Times (September 18, 2014); Furst, David, Peçanha, Sergio, and Huang, Jon, The Historic Scale of Syria’s Refugee Crisis, The New York Times. (September 18, 2014).