Awad Rajoub-Hebron

A decree issued by Palestinian National Authority (PNA) President Mahmoud Abbas has resolved a long debate over raising the age of marriage for both sexes to 18 years, but the decree provoked conflicting reactions between those who supported the resolution and those who rejected it.

On the official level and at human rights institutions, the decision was met with satisfaction, as did some religious circles, while others opposed it and saw it as an urgent decision and subjected to external pressure, especially the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which Abbas ratified in 2009.

On October 21, the cabinet ordered the president to amend Article 5 of the Personal Status Law of 76, which sets the age of marriage at 18 for both sexes, months after Prime Minister Mohammad Ashtiyeh pledged to pass the law.

Indeed, the President issued a decision on the third of this month, a law setting the age of marriage with specific exceptions by a decision of the competent court.

Sridah Hussein: A society fighting a liberation from colonialism should not marry its children and hold them beyond their means (Al Jazeera)

A late step
Since the establishment of the PNA, women's organizations have worked to achieve the goal of raising the age of marriage, but with the issuance of the decree, they expressed reservations about the exceptions contained therein, and pledged to continue their efforts to abolish the exceptions or restrict them to a minimum.

"The decision is long overdue," said Sreda Hussein, director of the Women's Affairs Team, a coalition of civil society groups and feminist institutions, criticizing what she called the absence of social issues from the political leadership agenda.

According to the activist, a society engaged in a battle to free itself from colonialism should not continue to marry its children and hold them responsibilities beyond their means.

She reviewed a number of reasons that she considers sufficient to raise the age of marriage, including: ignorance of children in the sense of marriage and body functions and the establishment of a family and how to raise and deal with the developments of family life.

Photos from the networks against raising the age of marriage and CEDAW (Al Jazeera)

Families of married couples
Sarida Hussein said that the families of married "children" are often poor in health and material, and that while families of adults are not protected, married "children" have no protection.

The activist expressed fears of the intervention of the "forces", which obstructed the decision for more than a quarter of a century to make the exception contained in the decree a rule, vowing to go on the battle until the abolition of exceptions or limited to the narrowest possible.

On social media, the debate raged between supporters and opponents. Farouk al-Atrash has supported the law, although he opposes the decisions of the laws issued by the Palestinian president in the absence of the Legislative Council.

Atrash attacked Hizb ut-Tahrir, which led a broad campaign to attack the decision, saying its opposition stemmed from a lack of awareness and knowledge of divorces resulting from early marriages and social problems, most of which were women.

Hizb ut-Tahrir says raising the marriage age is part of the authority's measures to implement CEDAW, warning of negative repercussions, the dismantling of the family and the destruction of younger generations.

Sharia, the Grand Mufti of Palestine, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein does not see dust on the presidential decree, it is "true, not problematic," indicating that "the Sultan's right in Islam to determine permissible."

However, the Mufti pointed to exceptions in the law, which are required by the Department and estimated by the competent judge, pointing out that the age of marriage was set at 18 years in force in Palestine, as it is in force in a number of neighboring countries.

The professor of comparative jurisprudence at Al-Quds Open University d. Ismail Shendi believes that the commissioning of religion and the establishment of actions and the conclusion of contracts is linked to the attainment of human adults, and it varies from country to country, but estimated by scientists in our country at the age of 15 years.

He added d. Shendi - in his talk to Al Jazeera Net - that raising the age of marriage "problem" may descend society to contrary to his religion, customs and traditions, calling on the responsible authorities to wait and study the Palestinian situation deeply away from tradition or succumb to the pressure of the other.

He stressed that the most important factor in cases of divorce, which was taken by some as a pretext to push the law to raise the age of marriage - not early marriage, but abuses linked to spouses themselves, mostly by the impact of social media.

Several laws and regulations apply in the Palestinian territories according to the system that governed the country, starting with the Ottoman Magazine of Judicial Judgments through the British Mandate, then the Jordanian and Egyptian rulings, and later the Israeli occupation and then the Palestinian Authority.

Statistics data
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the average age at first marriage in Palestine was 25.1 for males and 20.5 for females in 2018.

Data indicate that 433,515 marriage contracts were registered in 2018, of which 17,641 were for females in the age group (14-19) and 2,153 for males in the same category.

According to the same data, there were 8509 divorces in Palestine in 2018, of which 3925 were cases before entering, while the number of divorces reached 2118 cases (about a quarter of divorces), 217 of which were males in the age group (15-19) and 1901 females in the same category.