In light of World Refugee Day, SB OverSeas had the opportunity to speak at the European Parliament on the increasing rise of child marriage in the refugee camps in Lebanon. The event was opened by Soraya Post and Jean Lambert who both highlighted the importance of tackling the issue of child marriage worldwide.
The chairperson of SB OverSeas, Louma Albik, talked about our observations from our work on the ground. With the outbreak of the conflict, there has been a substantial increase in the practice with 42% of Syrian girls married in Lebanon, in comparison with 13% prior to the war. She described how she was propelled to take action to end this harmful practice after hearing about one of our students committing suicide after being married at the age of 13. This desire to change the situation was compounded upon meeting girls affected by child marriage during one of her visits to the refugee community. She ended the speech calling for action to be taken by all stakeholders involved.
Alongside SB OverSeas, Elisa Van Ruiten, Project Manager and Gender Specialist from Human Rights Without Frontiers, spoke about the international framework for child marriage and called for a number of recommendations to be followed including uniformly raising the minimum age of consent to eighteen, enact and enforce laws against child marriage, guarantee access to education amongst others as stated in the recently published report Women’s Rights and Religion.
This was followed by UNICEF, who stated that global trends show that child marriage has declined. However, the instability caused by crises including the Syrian conflict, has the affect of increasing the practice of child marriage. UNICEF stated that all actors involved need to play a role in ending this practice, this includes NGOs, grassroot organisations, community leaders, healthcare professionals and religious leaders, as well as men and boys.
Representatives from the European External Action Service and the European Commission spoke on the action of the EU in preventing child marriage. They highlighted the importance of education and child protection systems.