Hundreds brave rain to march against child marriage
Hundreds marched in Beirut Saturday in a protest against child marriage to mark International Women’s Day, which falls on March 8.
Despite heavy rain, protesters gathered in Beirut’s Adlieh neighborhood and marched toward the Parliament building in Downtown under the banner “The younger, the more dangerous.”
The protest, which was organized by the Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering (RDFL) and the National Coalition for Protecting Children from Child Marriage, aimed to pressure Parliament to pass a law to make 18 the minimum legal age for marriage.
The RDFL has spearheaded a campaign to install a minimum legal age for marriage since 2015, when it formed a legal committee to work toward that end. In 2017, the activist group launched the #NotBefore18 media campaign in the presence of activists, journalists and politicians.
The proposed law, introduced in March 2017 by then-Bsharri MP Elie Keyrouz and currently being discussed in Parliament, would make 18 the minimum legal age for marriage. A number of MPs who support the law joined the march, including Paula Yacoubian, who told Al Jadeed TV it was Parliament’s duty to outlaw the practice of child marriage.
“This law must be passed in Parliament. It is a very simple law that prevents marriage below the age of 18 ... [but] we have a problem with several parties who [are in favor of] the personal status law,” she said.
Currently, the legal age for marriage depends on which of the 15 religious community courts the couple falls under the jurisdiction of, and is determined by that court’s personal status law.
The courts each enforce their own law, and some may theoretically recognize brides as young as 14.
The issue has come under the spotlight since the new Cabinet’s formation, after Interior Minister Raya El Hassan made comments supporting dialogue over an optional civil marriage law. The proposal received blowback from supporters of the personal status laws.
“Today is not about personal status laws,” Yacoubian said. “We are here to protect children.”
Yacoubian noted that “a child’s body is not ready for childbirth.
“Neither are they ready for marriage, psychologically or economically.”