Investigating the alarming rise in child marriage

Introduction

In order to find out why child marriage in Syrian refugee camps is on the rise, Daniel travelled to Iraq with World Vision to meet some of the girls and their families. After a thorough investigation, Daniel discovered that social media was an unreported factor in the rise. The investigative piece was published by El Pais – one of Spain’s biggest daily newspapers.

Role

  • Writer
  • Photographer

Publisher

El Pais

Date

2019

THE STORY

According to the UN, large scale displacement caused by the Syria conflict has led to an alarming rise in child marriage cases. Poverty, insecurity, and the belief that perhaps, their daughters will have a better life elsewhere, can all lead to some refugee families marrying their children off.

But what if there is another cause that we can all relate to?

Shielding herself with a blanket on the floor of a women’s refuge centre in one of Iraq’s refugee camps, 17-year-old Aya fled Syria on foot when she was just ten years old.

​“Married life has been difficult,” says Aya. “When I was 15, I didn’t want to marry but my parents forced me. They told me I am old now and I have to marry, and they have no other choice for me. I left school because of this.”

​“From the beginning, my husband would come home and force me, hit me and beat me. My husband was 23 when we married.”

Aya’s social worker, Fatima, says the women’s centre where Aya seeks refuge has two case files on her — one from the abuse inflicted by her father before the marriage and one from the abuse inflicted by her husband.

Large spousal age gaps, cultural gender power imbalances and social isolation result in girls who marry before the age of 18 being at far greater risk of becoming victims of domestic violence than those who marry at an older age.