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Palestinian Authority outlaws child marriage in occupied West Bank

Underage marriage is typically more common in rural areas. [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 November, 2019

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Previously under the West Bank's legal system - a hybrid of Ottoman, British, Jordanian and PA laws - the legal marriage age was 15 for females and 16 for males.

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas issued a decision this week barring marriage before the age of 18, local media reported.

Previously under the West Bank's legal system - a hybrid of Ottoman, British, Jordanian and Palestinian Authority laws - the legal marriage age was 15 for females and 16 for males, Wafa news agency reported.

The law was originally presented in July, with the PA announcing it would "protect Palestinian families and ensure the advancement of Palestinian women".

A report by the Palestinian Authority's Central Bureau of Statistics last year found that nearly 11 percent of women in the West Bank, aged 20-24, had married before turning 18.

In 1997, the number of women aged 20-24 who had married before turning 18 was around 30 percent in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip combined.

"This a very positive decision. It is the right of a child to live their childhood and receive an education," Haifa al-Agha, a former PA women's affairs minister, told The Times of Israel.

Read more: The lethal cost of being a woman in Palestine

"This decision will allow children to achieve those rights."

Those wishing to marry before the age of 18 must receive an exemption from a religious court and the Palestinian Authority's sharia judge, a PA women's affairs official said.

One such example would be a waiver in the event of pregnancy.

"There are benefits they can receive for their child, but only if they are married," Suna Nassar told The Times of Israel.

"That is one of the reasons they may receive an exemption."

Underage marriage in the occupied West Bank and Gaza are typically more common in rural areas.

The change in the age of consent for marriage comes after months of protests in the West Bank against violence against women, sparked by the death of 21-year-old Israa Ghrayeb, who was beaten to death by her relatives.

Ghrayeb, a make-up artist from Bethlehem who was due to be married, is one of 18 women recorded murdered in the Palestinian territories this year, according to the Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling, a Palestinian NGO.

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