The U.S. Department of State's highest priority overseas is the protection and welfare of American citizens. Forced marriage is contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that “no marriage shall be entered into without the free and full consent of the intending spouses." The U.S. Department of State considers forced marriage to be a human rights abuse, in the case of minors also a form of child abuse. Often, victims are subjected to non-consensual sex, physical and emotional abuse, isolation, and threats of violence.
Arranged marriages are a long-standing tradition in many cultures and countries. The Department respects this tradition, and makes a very clear distinction between a forced and an arranged marriage. In arranged marriages, the families of both spouses take a leading role in the arrangement but the choice whether to consent remains with the individuals. In a forced marriage, at least one party does not consent to the marriage, and some element of duress or coercion is generally present.
In Jordan, marriage laws are based on religious law, either Shari'a or Ecclesiastical depending on the religion of the parties involved. Generally speaking, marriage law dictates that the minimum marriage age in Jordan is 18 for both men and women. However, exceptions can be made according to the prevailing circumstances. For Muslims, with the permission of her or his father a person can marry as young as 15 years based on the Islamic Hijiri calendar; i.e., 14 years, 7 months and 4 days according to the Gregorian calendar. For Christians, marriage can occur at the age of 16 provided that both parents give their approval.
Marriage in Jordan requires the consent of both parties; forced marriages are banned in Jordan. However, a person has to explicitly express to a Shari'a Judge or a priest that she or he is entering a forced marriage in order to stop the union. The Department of Shari'a Law has developed a system where they can circulate an alert to all Shari'a courts to prevent any forced marriage from taking place. Moreover, if someone indicates that she or he has entered a forced marriage, the person is entitled to file a complaint to end the marriage contract.
Marriages are usually arranged between families or through neighbors, though marriages arranged by the individuals themselves are becoming more common, and even family arranged marriages do not usually go ahead without the consent of both parties involved. Typical age of marriage is 30 or younger for men and 25 or younger for women. There is a great deal of social pressure to marry, especially for women as they approach the age of 25 or 26.
For some members of the Jordanian population, it may be difficult in practice for children to go against their family's wishes if the parents are strongly in favor of a match. In some cases this may result in threats of violence against the person, particularly if the family views the marriage as a matter of family honor. Individuals facing this situation may seek help from the Family Protection Directorate, a unit of the Jordanian Public Security Directorate. If there is a need to flee the country in order to avoid forced marriage, obstacles include travel holds and US passport requirements for minors. Under Jordanian law, a travel hold may be placed by a family member upon any minor, or by a male relative upon any female relative. The Embassy is unable to lift these holds. In the case of US passport law, minors cannot be issued passports without the consent of both parents. The U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. can waive this requirement on a case-by-case, emergency basis.
If you are facing this situation, or know someone who is, contact the local authorities and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Please see the Country Specific Information for Jordan for locations and contact information.