The cancellation of the law that legalized the marriage of the rapist to his victim was a step in the right direction despite being very late. But we are still at the bottom of the barrel if the legal age of marriage is 15 in Jordan. According to clause 10 of the Jordanian personal status law the marriage of under aged girls is legal even though it is a crime against their right to a childhood and a blockade in the way of change.
It is hard for any same person to explain that law that attempts to beautify a totally inhuman picture in order to make it accepted in a society where tradition still rule and affects public opinion
A troubling reactionary image connects a 30-year old with a 15 year old teenager which should be in class dreaming of a future job not the furniture of her home. This image is a witness to a demolished society that continues to destroy the lives of thousands of girls making their future a nightmare full of ignorance, difficulties and injustice. This is creating a sense of continuity and support for a paternal regime that allows men to dominate women.
This age old bad habit is supported by Jordanian law that has produced disappointment to all who live in Jordan and dream of change and progress. It has disillusioned everyone who aspires to reach a society that believes in equality and an honorable life to its women.
The law puts a number of conditions that must be met for such a marriage to be legal. But these conditions are nothing more than a joke aimed at lessening opposition and attempting to affect public opinion.
What if the husband wanted the child to start a family? How is a child who has not reached 18 is going to go to school pregnant with her teenage friends? How will she study while taking care of and nursing her baby who will need her undivided attention while she is supposed to still be going to school. When she has to juggle between her life as a mother and a wife and at the same time going to school she is certain to leave school permanently. This is what has happened in many other cases with these child mothers being taken away from the school and social environment that she has been used to.
If this law shows us anything it is that Jordanian law comes short when it comes to protecting women in Jordan. How can we prevent women from voting or getting a driver’s license or traveling before she is 18 while we allow ere to be a housewife at the age of 15? Marriage is one of the biggest most complicated social institutions that require awareness and physical, cultural and emotional maturity as well as life time responsibilities.
The director of the Jordanian Women’s Federation Nadia Shamoukh took a serious and decisive stand in opposing this unjust law when she said that “allowing girls who are 15 to marry is akin to their legalized rape.” She argued that this is a legal rape to a girl who doesn’t have enough awareness to take the right decision like this one about her own future.
Despite the fact that this law is dangerous to the entire Jordanian society, certain religious and conservative forces have defended it saying that shariah doesn’t oppose under age marriage as long as both are mature. This kind of support will create more obstacles in the way of moving Jordan closer to a civil, just and equal society. This requires that educated persons and intellectuals must unite and increase their effort to oppose this destructive stream. When ignorance is increase so needs to be the effort to fight it is all civilized and scientific ways possible.
Laila Hzaineh is a Palestinian writer residing in Jordan
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