A qualitative study exploring child marriage practices among Syrian conflict-affected populations in Lebanon
Recent reports have suggested that child marriage among Syrians may be increasing as a result of displacement and conflict. This study sought to gather qualitative data about the factors that promote child marriage practices among Syrian refugees in Al Marj area in the Bekaa valley, Lebanon, where the majority of Syrian refugees have settled in Lebanon. The second aim of this study was to generate recommendations on how to mitigate the drivers and consequences of child marriage practices based on the findings.
Eight focus group discussions were conducted separately with married and unmarried young women and mothers and fathers of married and unmarried women. Furthermore, researchers conducted 11 key informant interviews with service providers and stakeholders to understand how conflict and displacement influenced marriage practices of Syrian refugees in Al Marj community.
Although child marriage was a common practice in pre-conflict Syria, new factors seem to contribute to a higher risk of child marriage among Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Respondents cited conflict- and displacement-related safety issues and feeling of insecurity, the worsening of economic conditions, and disrupted education for adolescent women as driving factors. Service providers, young women, and parents also reported changes in some marriage practices, including a shorter engagement period, lower bride price, change in cousin marriage practices, and a reduced age at marriage.
Recommendations for interventions to mitigate the drivers of child marriage and its negative consequences should be built on a clear understanding of the local refugee context and the drivers of child marriage in refugee settings. Interventions should involve multiple stakeholders, they should be adjusted to target each specific context, age group and marital status. For these interventions to be effective, they should be addressed concurrently, and they should be delivered in a culturally sensitive and practical manner.
Mourtada et al. (2017), Conflict and Health 11(Suppl 1):27