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Cablegate: Child Marriage in Israel

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 36341

1. (SBU) Available evidence indicates that child marriage is
infrequent in the general Israeli population, and is confined
almost exclusively to specific minority populations. Post
gathered information for this report from the Israel National
Council for the Child (NCC), the foremost NGO on children's
issues in Israel; the Legal Department of the Ministry of
Welfare; and media reports.

2. (SBU) Responses to reftel questions are as follows:

A) The legal age of marriage in Israel is 17 for both boys
and girls. Parental consent is irrelevant. Pursuant to the
law, the only way to legally marry before the age of 17 is
with court authorization. According to Ronit Ivri, a lawyer
with the Welfare Ministry's Legal Department, family courts
have the authority to authorize early marriages, but only on
a case-by-case basis. These courts might, for example,
authorize marriage for an underage girl if she were pregnant,
Ivri said.

B) 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. (Comment:
It is not clear why the GOI includes 17-year-old boys in the
category of "child grooms when 17 is the legal age of
marriage. The statistics were not broken out for boys under
17.) 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.

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C) 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.

********************************************* ********************
Visit Embassy Tel Aviv's Classified Website:

You can also access this site through the State Department's
Classified SIPRNET website.
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