MAFRAQ, Jordan (AP) — Married at 15 and divorced at 16, a Syrian teen says she regrets having said yes to a handsome suitor — a stranger who turned into an abusive husband.
Yet the reasons that transformed her into a child bride have become more prevalent among Syrians who live in Jordanian exile because of a six-year-old civil war back home. More families marry off daughters to ease the financial burden or say marriage is the way to protect the “honor” of girls seen as vulnerable outside their homeland.
Figures from Jordan’s population census document the long suspected increase for the first time. In 2015, brides between the ages of 13 and 17 made up almost 44 percent of all Syrian females in Jordan getting married that year, compared to 33 percent in 2010.
With Syrians expected to remain in exile for years, it’s a harmful trend for refugees and their overburdened host country, U.N. and Jordanian officials say.
More Syrian girls will lose out on education, since most child brides drop out of school. They typically marry fellow Syrians who are just a few years older, often without a steady job — a constellation that helps perpetuate poverty. And they will likely have more children than those who marry as adults, driving up Jordan’s fertility rate.
“This means we will have more people, more than the government of Jordan can afford,” said Maysoon al-Zoabi, secretary general of Jordan’s Higher Population Council.
The figures on early marriage were drawn from Jordan’s November 2015 census and compiled in a new study.
The census counted 9.5 million people living in Jordan, including 2.9 non-Jordanians.
Among the foreigners were 1.265 million Syrians — or double the number of refugees registered in the kingdom since the outbreak of the Syria conflict in 2011. The other Syrians include migrant laborers who came before the war, and those who never registered as refugees.
The figures on early marriage include all Syrians in Jordan, not just registered refugees.
Many came from southern Syria’s culturally conservative countryside, where even before the conflict girls typically married in their teens. Still, the study shows a higher rate of early marriage among Syrians in exile than in their homeland.
The teen divorcee fled Syria’s Daraa province in 2012, along with her parents and four siblings. The family eventually settled in a small town in the northern Mafraq province.
The parents and the teen, now 17, spoke on condition of anonymity because of the stigma of…