Feature: Early marriage in Gaza Strip provokes controversy

by Saud Abu Ramadan
GAZA, Sept. 30 — A young couple, Ahmed and his cousin Tamara, has honeymooned in their hometown in northern Gaza Strip, while their early marriage sparked controversy in the coastal enclave.
The 15-year-old husband and his 14-year-old wife come from the big Sobeh clan in a rural town, where their relatives attended the wedding ceremony of the youth couple.
The story of the two teenagers spread in every house in the conservative town.
“The marriage of children is a phenomenon that has vanished for a long time. I believe that the parents of the two young teenagers are not well-educated,” said Salma Abu Hajjar, a 52-year-old mother of three girls and two boys.
Enad Sobeh, Ahmed’s father, said he was happy to see his eldest son’s marriage. “I was eager to see my son getting married, and although we live in hard conditions, I sold two donkeys to get money for the wedding dowry and the marriage expenses.”
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency which provides humanitarian aid to the Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip said in a report recently published that more than one million Palestinians are living under the poverty line, accounting for almost half of its 1.8 million population.
Activists and Islamic clerics in the Gaza Strip expressed concerns that poverty help increase the odd marriage.
Hassan al-Joujo, chairman of the Hamas-run Islamic legislation council in the Gaza Strip, said the marriage of Ahmed and Tamara is legal according to Islamic legislation that have been implemented in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1993.
“Ahmed was born in February 1998, so his age is completely legal and his wife Tamara was born in January 1999 and her age according to Islamic legislation enables her to get married,” said al-Joujo, adding “the fact of not having an identity card doesn’t matter and doesn’t spoil their marriage.”
Although the law sets the legal age for marriage at 15 and a half years for men and 15 for women, most of women get married after they are 18 years old so that they can finish their education, at least to have a high-school certificate.
Due to poverty and high unemployment rate, it is difficult for young men to afford marriage so most of them get married after 22 years old.
Zeinab al-Ghuneimi, director of women research and study center in Gaza, criticized the marriage of the two young teenagers.
“This marriage is a rare case. The phenomenon of early marriage in Gaza vanished a long time ago due to better education of the population in the Gaza Strip,” said al-Ghuneimi, warning of growing poverty due to the blockade imposed on the enclave.
“Early marriage causes health problems to couples due to their ignorance in the sexual life in addition to the psychological burdens and the difficulties of the young mothers to take good care of their children,” said al-Ghuneimi.
Although Ahmed and Tamara’s marriage is considered “legal according to Islamic laws,” Gaza activists criticized the marriage, saying “it is really awful to see two children getting married and start a family.”[db:内容2]