The Arab World contains many traditions that features its societies. Woman role was and is still in many Arab countries limited to being a mother and a household. For many decades, early marriage was the main feature of Arab society due to the long cultural roots and habits that consider the honor of the woman is to be a mother . Family is considered the holy principle for Arab societies whatever their religion .
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In the recent years , the Arab world has been passed through many challenges and external pressures represented in globalization ,international and economic changes , opening to world cultures , decrease of welfare and decline of economic performance in many Arab countries which resulted in increase of unemployment, inflation and increase of poverty among most of Arab people.
In the past and near present , early marriage was considered an easy solution especially among poor people to face their hard life . Today , especially after increase of human rights concerns including more freedom and rights for woman , the early marriage started to decrease . however , the problem now is not only the early marriage in some Arab countries but the the main problem is the increase of married women that exceeded thirty years and sometimes they die before they marry .
The majority of the Arab populations live in cities working in industrial or service sectors. Today, Arab women are more educated and more likely to work outside their homes for personal and financial independence. These changes create a new image of woman and change her past traditional role as a mother and household.
The objective of this research is the studying of marriage issue in the Arab world because marriage is one of the key important factors that determine the social and economic present and future in the Arab countries. Both problems of early marriage and increase of average age of marriage of marriage are explained. Finally, a recommended solutions and actions are proposed in order to naturalize the two problems for decreasing the negative impacts and creation of better Arab societies.
Importance of Marriage in Arab Society
Family is the main concern in Arab societies. Family is considered the main social security system for young and elder people in Arab countries. Family and marriage are at the core of interest in majority of Arab communities because they are the legal and accepted way to make man and woman can live together , having relations and kids in legal and religious way which is accepted by their society.
Early marriage in Arab World
Early marriage is any form of marriage that takes place at age of 18 years. Early marriages are often associated with enforcement. Forced marriage is the marriage conducted without full consent of both parties and sometimes with a threat .From human rights point of view, early marriage is considered a violation of human rights conventions. In Arab societies- especially developing countries- early marriage, is considered a means of securing young girls’ future and protecting them. Wars and social problems may leads also to early marriage as in Palestine, where the intifada has led to earlier marriage.
Many countries in the world have declared 18 as the minimum legal age of marriage. However, more than millions of young girls are expected to marry in the next decade according to the international statistics. .
Early marriage has decreased in many world countries in the last decades. However, it is still common in rural areas and among poor people. Poor parents believe that early marriage will protect their daughters and save their future. Young girls are forced into marriage by their families while they are still children because they think that marriage benefits them and secure their financial and social future.
Early marriage violates children rights because it decreases their human development, leaving them socially isolated with little education, skills and opportunities for employment and self-realization. These conditions ultimately make married girls vulnerable to poverty .Early marriage is a health and human rights violation because it takes place within the context of poverty and gender inequality with social, cultural and economic dimensions .
Reasons of early marriage in Arab World
There different reasons of early marriage in Arab countries, some of these reasons are referred to cultural reasons , others are referred to economic reasons . Some of theses reasons are :High poverty rates, birth rates and death rates, greater incidence of conflict and civil wars, lower levels of overall development, including schooling, employment, health care and believes that early marriage is a means of securing young girls’ future and protecting them .
Effects of early marriage
In many Arab countries the problem of early marriage still exists. It’s important to understand that early marriage has serious health, economic and sychological effects that may lead to society failure and destruction of the main family role in the society .
When a young girls become wives they are required to do a many hard domestic duties, including new roles and responsibilities as wives and mothers. The young bride’s status in the family is dependent on her demonstrating her fertility within the first year of marriage when she is not physiologically and emotionally prepared .
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Young wives are forced to be responsible for the care and welfare of their families and future generations while they are still children themselves. They have no decision making powers, restricted mobility and limited economic resources. Early marriage is a direct cause of woman poverty and wide age gaps between younger married girls and their spouses create unequal power relations between the young bride and her older and more experienced husband, resulting in husbands having total control over sexual relations and decision-making .
Young wives are often unable to make wise plans for their families and may be forced to select between one of two hard choices: either to tolerate husbands’ violence or to make crimes (killing them). AIDS epidemic increases in young women due to the combination socioeconomic, cultural and political factors that put young women at greater risk of HIV infection due to the lack of sexual knowledge and limited access to information and resources. Younger women may face unsuccessful marriages and divorce could happen as a result of lack of maturity, incomplete independence, limited time to get prepared for marriage and having kids, dealing with education/career building and family formation at the same time.
Feature of marriage in Arab society
There are some significant features of marriage in Arab countries . Those features are relatives marriage, urfi marriage , mutaa and messyar marriages . Urfi marriage is the most unaccepted marriage in many Arab countries because it dosen’t secures wives rights in case fo divorce or deny of their husbands of the marriage itself. Realatives marriage is the most common and liked in many Arab countries for keeping the families wealth (in case of rich family), or for familiarity and strong relations among poor families. Mutaa marriage is significant in north Asian Arab countries . on ther hand messyar marriage is significant in Persian countries .
In Egypt , marriage became a problem due to economic problems associated with high costs of marriage including dowry, homes, furniture and even foods. It is impossible for a young graduated youth to save the money for marriage without their families support or other sources. The impacts of marriage difficulties in Egypt has reflected seriously on the society and created new phenomena such as violence against women such as rape and dely of marriage age after 30s and sometime no marriage.
Women’s rights regarding marriage
According to the international human rights conventions, woman has the rights when entering, during and at the end of the marriage. When entering marriage, woman has the same right as a man to enter marriage only with full consent. A woman married under minimum age shouldn’t be considered legally married. Marriage must be registered in an official registry. If a woman marries someone with another nationality, she will not have her nationality automatically changed to that of her husband unless she chooses that .
During marriage, woman has the same rights and responsibilities as man. She has the right to equal access to health services, the right of protection from violence within the family. She also has the same rights as a man to decide freely about the number and spacing of children and to have access to information, education and means to exercise these rights .
Woman has the same rights and responsibilities as her husband towards children regardless of her marital status and family benefits. Change in woman’s husband nationality during marriage doesn’t imply that her nationality must be change. If woman is employed she must not be discriminated against on the grounds of marriage and maternity.
At the end of marriage, woman has the same rights as man when a marriage ends. Neither woman nationality nor that of her children shall automatically be affected by the ending of a marriage. Woman has the same rights and responsibilities as a man towards her children regardless of her marital status .
How to solve the problem?
The recommended solutions for improving marriage situation in Arab World are:
- Using International pressure specially regarding woman rights stated in human rights conventions on Arab countries to follow the Women’s Conventions.
- Following poverty reduction strategies
- Making the required reforms of marriage and family laws to meet the human rights standards and monitoring the impacts of these laws on Arab societies.
- Providing safety employment opportunities for youth specially girls and women affected or at risk of early marriage.
- Ensuring the right to education and information for girls, including married girls.
- Providing incentives to encourage families to educate their children.
- Encouraging activities that change the attitudes and behavior of community and religious leaders – especially regarding early marriage, girls’ education and employment.
- Developing rules that redefine acceptable ages of marriage and offer social and economic supports that allow parents and girls to delay marriage until suitable age.
- Raising consciousness about child marriage consequences and impacts of increase of average age of marriage as well.
- Promoting legal, and chosen forms of marriage
- Supporting married young girls
- Stephen H. , “Early Marriage – Child Spouses “, Innocenti Digest no. 7, UNICEF , March 2007.
- UNIFEM, “Forced and Early Marriage”, “URL:http://www.stopvaw.org/Forced_and_Early_Marriage.htmlMinnesota”, Advocates for Human Rights, August 2007.
- Forum on Marriage and the Rights of Women and Girls, “Early Marriage and Poverty Exploring links for policy and program development” ,2003.
- UNFPA, “The Promise of Inequality: Gender Inequality and Reproductive Health”, “URL:http://www.unfpa.org/swp/2003/english/ch2/index.htm”, 2005.
- United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, ” A Choice by Right: Working Group on Forced Marriages Child Marriage Fact Sheet, 2000.
- The International Women’s Tribune Centre Rights of Women, “A Guide to the Most Important United Nations Treaties on Women’s Human Rights”, New York 1998.