Damascus: Syria’s parliament passed groundbreaking amendments to the country’s civil law—in place since 1953—including raising the minimum age for marriage to 18.
During the war child marriage spiked dramatically as economic conditions worsened in the country and families found themselves in compromising positions.
Before the war, marriage age was fixed at 17—but exceptions were allowed if girls as young as 12 were capable of proving they were “physically and mentally” ready for married life.
Now such legal waivers—which many young girls had been forced to sign by their fathers—have been scrapped.
The new law—passed on February 5—also prohibits women being married off by a family member without her verbal consent.
Additionally, women are now allowed to specify in the marriage contract that they forbid their husband from taking a second, third or fourth wife—as permitted by Islamic Sharia.
If a husband does re-marry, without consent of his wife, he is now subject to legal punishment and his wife is empowered to file for divorce.
While the amendments do not abolish polygamy they could upset conservatives in the country who consider men are entitled to marry multiple women according to Islam.
The amended civil law also allows women to inherit from their grandfathers, if the parent dies while the grandparents are still alive.
Previously, only male grandchildren were entitled to such an inheritance.
Additionally, clauses were made amending child-custody rights, which previously kept male children in the care of their mothers until the age of 13, and girls to the age of 15.
Critics argue the legislation is the least of the country’s worries given its dire economic condition having just come out of a grueling eight-year war.
They speculate the legislation is aimed at diverting public attention away from acute shortages in electricity and heating fuel, while others say the government was trying to market Syria as a progressive country that was children and women-friendly in an effort to shed the negative publicity that came with the war.