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Married by Exception: Child marriage policies in the Middle East and North Africa

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Save the Children International

Legal and policy measures that prevent and prohibit child marriage are a key approach  to protecting girls from being married before they are ready. To better understand how child marriage laws protect girls affected by crisis in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, Save the Children undertook comprehensive desk research and consulted with adolescent girls and boys and young adults from refugee and local communities in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey. In April 2021, Save the Children spoke to 123 adolescents and young adults about their knowledge of child marriage laws in their country context, their views on whether these laws help protect girls from child marriage and, if not, what they think needs to change.  

Adolescent girls and boys and young men and women across all four focus countries recognised the power of the law to protect girls from child marriage. They saw child marriage laws as an important way to protect girls and help them to assert their rights. They also recognised that child marriage laws can help to change peoples’ views and stop parents from marrying their daughters too soon. In reality, however, most children reported that child marriage laws were likely to have little impact on girls’ lives.  They identified a number of reasons for this, including limited awareness of the law among girls and their families; barriers to girls’ agency in decision-making about child marriage; and loopholes and exceptions to the law, including religious and customary marriages. 


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