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Key issues in accessing civil registration

Civil registration procedures in Jordan are complex, and therefore not all individuals are able to access them. Counselling and legal aid can help navigate some of these problems, but there are others where they cannot be used. In these cases advocacy with the relevant bodies is needed find ways to mitigate these obstacles and the consequences of non-registration. See the section on Advocacy talking points for some examples of messaging that could be used in this advocacy.

This section highlights three common issues with access to civil registration procedures in Jordan and some of the mechanisms that have already been used to resolve these obstacles.

Challenge 1: Not having the required documents to register marriages

One of the most common challenges is that many families do not have the documents required by the registration procedures. This may be because they did not bring essential documents with them when they fled Syria, because they never possessed the documents and / or because they are not able to obtain documents. Some of the mechanisms that organisations are using to navigate these problems are:

  • Refugees who had been legally married in Syria but have lost their documents may be recognised as married if they bring their case to a religious court with witnesses to testify. In general, there has been increasing acceptance of witness testimonials to marriages.
  • Some INGOs, such as the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) offer cash-assistance to families whose only obstacle to obtaining documentation is monetary. Moreover, the government has offered several amnesties for those who cannot afford the fees for certain documents. Local legal aid organisations should know when these amnesties take place
  • Some Sharia courts in Jordan have started to accept photocopies or photos in lieu of original documents when refugees no longer have the originals. the Civil Status Department agreed that Syrian refugees can provide copies of their identification documents if they do not have the originals

The government of Jordan has established a special review committee to consider cases where an individual is unable to follow the normal registration procedures due to lack of documentation. The mandate of this committee is limited as it can only conduct reviews for the purpose of issuing the new Ministry of the Interior Card (MoI Card), and not for other forms of documentation. However, the MoI card may be useful in accessing certain civil registration procedures and so this procedure may help refugees acquire other documentation in the longer term.

These solutions are obviously not available to everyone all the time, but when appropriate they should be tried, alongside advocacy around making them more available.

Challenge 2: Limited awareness of the full process

Refugees routinely express a lack of awareness of civil registration procedures. They often do not know what to do to access these procedures and sometimes take steps that are not in line with Jordanian law and policy (for instance, it is common practice to be married by any religious Sheikh, regardless of whether the Sheikh is authorised by the relevant religious court). However, parents can generally petition for judicial “ratification” (legal recognition) of a customary religious marriage or for late registration of their marriage and so obtain a marriage certificate, which is needed to register the birth of a child.

So far, good practice has focused on producing materials explaining the civil registration system, with the result that there are now many videos, leaflets, booklets and other information materials available. Various organisations based in Jordan (such as UNHCR, NRC, JCLA, ARDD, DRC) have also carried out public awareness campaigns on civil registration procedures in Jordan, some examples of good practice in this area are given in the Raising Awareness section of the toolkit.

Challenge 3: Children born within child marriages

In Jordan, child marriages are very common even though, if caught, the husband and father may be imprisoned and / or fined. The minimum age for marriage in Jordan is 18, but persons aged between 15 and 17 can marry with the approval of the Chief Justice of the Sharia courts. As a result child marriages are unlikely to be registered. This means that in practice, parents in child marriages less likely to register the births of their children because they do not have the proof of marriage required for the registration.

Good practice in this context might include:

  • Advising persons in child marriages or with children of child marriages to seek advice from UNHCR or legal aid providers for assistance with obtaining civil documents
  • Conducting awareness within the community about the problems associated with child marriage from a child rights and legal perspective
  • Providing Syrian religious figures with information about the legal consequences of child marriages in terms of Jordanian law, criminal liability and problems associated with the registration of children of the marriage
  • Information needs to be given that registration for a girl 15 or above is possible, and to rid the lack of clarity and perceived obstacles to this process so families don’t continue with the practices they were accustomed to in Syria, leaving marriages unregistered.
  • Witness testimonies to the marriage can be used at Sharia courts when the marriage took place inside of Jordan to get a verification of marriage
  • Ensure that girls who have entered into child marriages are referred to specialist organizations who may be able to counsel them through the process of civil registration. For example the No Lost Generation initiative was launched as an initiative between UNICEF, UNHCR, Save the Children, World Vision, Mercy Corps and work on early marriages in Jordan.

UNICEF has produced recommendations and guidelines regarding protection of girls in early marriages and how to provide with social and legal counselling.

Further reading