Marriage in Conflict: An exploration of the relationship between conflict and child marriage in the Middle East and North Africa region Open Access

Rice, Emma (Spring 2023)

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Child marriage is not a new phenomenon and has resounding health, social, and economic effects on the children in child marriages as well as society.  In the Middle East and North Africa, a region plagued by heightened conflict events in the past couple decades, there are many factors that influence the decisions surrounding child marriage.  This thesis seeks to explore the relationship between conflict in complex humanitarian emergencies and the prevalence of child marriage, with focus in the Middle East and North Africa region.  I examined marriage laws and their minimum marriage ages for the region.  Then, I sourced data from international agency reports on health, social, and economic impacts of child marriage, particularly in times of conflict.  All states in the region have marriage laws, with approximately half of them subscribing to the Convention on the Rights of the Child’s definition of a child as an individual under the age of 18.  Though these laws are in place, the practice of child marriage still exists and is not aligned with the legal frameworks in the states.  In eight states that had severe ongoing conflict in 2019, I determined common trends of higher child marriage prevalence among displaced persons, child marriage exacerbated by poverty, and similar driving factors behind the decision to involve a child in a child marriage.  There are several rationales behind decisions concerning child marriage: economic, protective, social, religious, and political.  In complex humanitarian settings, conflict catalyses all these rationales to increase the risk of child marriage.  Establishing protective mechanisms is essential to decreasing the prevalence of child marriage, with education as the most common protective mechanism.

Table of Contents

Background + Significance 1

Methods 7

Results 9

Laws + legality 9

Procedure versus practice 12

State results 12

Afghanistan 13

Egypt 15

Iraq 17

Israel 19

Libya 20

Syria 22

Turkey 24

Yemen 25

Analysis + Discussion 26

Conclusion 33

References 34

Endnotes 35

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