June 22, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10678

Jordanian Journalist Decries Child-Bride Marriages, Enabled By Jordanian Law

June 22, 2023
Jordan | Special Dispatch No. 10678

The issue of child-bride marriages, which periodically sparks public debate in the Arab world, recently resurfaced in Jordan following a press conference held by the country's chief qadi, 'Abd Al-Hafiz Al-Rabta. In the press conference Al-Rabta presented statistics on marriage in the kingdom, including on underage marriage. He noted that 5,824 girls over 16 and under 18 were married in 2022, although Jordanian law allows marriage under the age of 18 only in special cases, with judicial consent. The chief qadi said that this figure represents a drop of 27% in such marriages compared to 2021. He also mentioned that he had refused the request of a Jordanian MP to marry a 15-year-old girl, with the consent of her parents, on the grounds of the girl's age and the age gap between her and the prospective husband. He had also, he said, refused the request of another MP to sanction the marriage of a 16-year-old girl to a man of 31.[1]

It should be mentioned that Article 10 of Jordan's Personal Status Law states that the minimum age for marriage is 18 (the age of majority in Jordan). However, the law authorizes the chief qadi to approve the marriage of minors over 16, providing that the marriage is consensual and that it "serves the collective good of the Muslim public."[2]

The case recounted by the qadi, of the MP who wished to marry a girl of 15, evoked outrage from Jordanians on social media. These social media users condemned the phenomenon of child-bride marriages, and many of them mocked the MP and criticized his "immorality" and his attempt to exploit his status in order to "satisfy his cravings."  One user wrote sarcastically that this MP was apparently "trying to solve the problem of spinsterhood in the country, which is on his agenda." Some called to expose the MP's identity and strip him of his parliamentary immunity.[3] In response to the uproar, the chief qadi's office clarified that the affair is an old one and that the man in question is no longer a member of parliament.[4]

Following the qadi's press conference, Jordanian journalist and writer Basma Al-Nasour devoted her March 27, 2023 column in the London-based daily Al-Arabi Al-Jadid to the issue of child-bride marriages, and condemned the Jordanian law that still allows them to occur. She wrote that the vague language of the law enables qadis to interpret it as they like and grant requests for underage marriage at will, not only in rare and exceptional cases.  Such marriages, she said, rob girls of their childhood, curtail their chances of acquiring an education and getting a job,  stifle their ambitions and divest them of their right to determine their own fate.

"Child-bride marriage!" (Al-Arabi Al-Jadid, London, March 27, 2023)

The following are translated excerpts from Al-Nasour's column: [5]

"Statements made recently by Jordan's chief qadi, 'Abd Al-Hafiz Al-Rabta, rekindled the controversy [about underage marriage], a widespread debate that involves civil society circles, public figures, and activists concerned with public freedoms, justice and children's rights. In a recent press conference in Amman, the qadi presented data on marriage in the  kingdom, and sparked public fury and condemnation after he revealed that a former MP had asked  his permission to marry an underage girl of 15, permission he did not grant. He also revealed that a current MP had asked him to broker the marriage of a man in his thirties to an underage girl of 16.

"By mentioning the two incidents, the qadi incurred the anger of [other] MPs, who saw it as an attack on their reputation. One of them even asked him, in a written memo, to apologize, and noted, in an unfortunate attempt to justify the moral transgression of the MPs [who had approached the qadi]… that such marriages are frequent and widespread in Jordan.

"According to Article 10 of Jordan's Personal Status Law, the minimum age for marriage is 18. The law stipulates that the [bride and groom] must both be of age, of sound mind and capable of undertaking the responsibility of marriage. But this law is not followed to the letter. In practice, girls of 15 are married off with the consent of qadis in the shari'a courts, based on amendments to the Personal Status Law that were passed by the Jordanian parliament. [These amendments]  state that an underage girl can marry in special, exceptional cases, with the approval of the chief qadi, if the marriage serves [the public] good and if the qadi has determined that [the girl is marrying] of her own free will…"[6]

"The vague language [of the amendments] makes it possible to violate [Article 10 of the Personal Status Law] stipulating the [minimum] age of marriage. Jurists and [human rights] activists have demanded to revoke this amendment, which enables circumventing the law and marrying off underage girls with the approval of the chief qadi's office. [For] the figures published by the qadi's office show that many marriage licenses have been issued under the rubric of special and exceptional [cases] serving the public good…

"By introducing the exceptions [specified in the amendments], the legislator presumably meant to [allow marriage in] specific cases, where an underage girl became pregnant through rape or became involved in an illicit relationship. The legislator should have been clearer and more precise [in drafting the amendments], in order to preclude unacceptable arbitrary interpretations of the law, which cause injustice first of all to the underage girls, whose families – usually poor – hurry to marry them off as a desperate measure in order to lighten their financial burden. This practice robs the girls of their childhood, decreases their chance of acquiring an education and a job, stifles their ambitions and deprives them of the right to determine their own fate and choose a life partner when they come of age, when they are able to decide for themselves and undertake the great responsibility of marriage.

"Some families delusionally believe that marrying off their [daughters] at an early age will be [their] salvation. But soon things get complicated, for many of these girls come back [home] bruised, humiliated and broken, after their husbands, bereft of any sense of responsibility, give them up. [Moreover, they come back] with children in tow, more mouths [for the family] to feed. In the best-case scenario, the court orders [the husband] to pay nominal alimony fees, no more than a pittance. And after all this, some still ask why poverty and crime are growing and why a wayward generation has arisen, that has lost its [moral] compass, or perhaps never had one."


[1], ,March 20, 2023;, Al-Ghad (Jordan), March 21, 2023.

[2] Ensuring the public good (maslaha in Arabic), is a principle of Islamic jurisprudence, evoked in cases where the Quran and Hadith provide no explicit directives.

[3], March 20, 2023; see also the YouTube channel of Orient TV, March 21, 2023.

[4], March 20, 2023.

[5]  Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (London), March 27, 2023.

[6] It should be noted that Al-Nasour's statements are slightly inaccurate. As stated above, the current law allows underage marriage with special approval only over the age of 16. Before the law was amended in 2019, this was possible from the age of 15. See

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