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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wikileaks: Child marriage in Israel (updated)

Last night, Wikileaks released some 35,000 new cables.

Most of them are incredibly boring, very few are classified or secret.

Here's an unclassified 2005 cable that is interesting, though:

The Executive Director of the NCC described early marriage as "not a significant problem in the general Israeli population," but "significant" among minority groups such as Muslims, certain ultra-Orthodox Jewish sects, and new immigrants from Ethiopia and the Islamic states in the FSU.
According to the Government's Central Bureau of statistics, 47 boys 17 years of age or younger married in 2002, 30 from the Jewish sector and 17 from the Muslim sector. ... During the same year, there was a total of 196 "child brides" under the age of 17, with 29 from the Jewish sector, 165 from the Muslim sector, and one from the Christian sector. The Central Bureau of Statistics highlighted that the ratio of girls in the Muslim sector who married under the age of 17 increased from 1.3 girls per 1,000 in 1995, to 6 girls per 1,000 in 2001. The ratio for girls in the Jewish sector who married under the age of 17 remained stable at 0.3 girls per 1,000. In the view of the NCC, child marriage has an adverse effect in that it influences the child's ability to continue his or her education and impedes the child's proper development. Ivri was not aware of any specific government office that is working on this issue.

No U.S.-funded initiatives exist in Israel to reduce the incidence or address the negative affects of child marriage. The NCC endorses implementation of new educational programs that target the specific at-risk populations cited above.
The highlighted statistic is incredible - a fourfold increase in Muslim child brides in only six years?

Could it be that after Oslo there was a rush to marry girls between those living in Israel and the territories so the latter could gain Israeli citizenship? I cannot imagine that this huge jump was not related to political issues as (at the time) a Palestinian Arab state seemed increasingly likely.

UPDATE: Commenter akibigman notes that during Oslo, some 130,000 Palestinian Arabs received Israeli citizenship by marrying Israeli Arabs, so my supposition makes sense.