There is no minimum age for marriage in Lebanon, where each religious sect has distinct personal status laws governing marriage, divorce, and inheritance. 

Some of these laws allow girls younger than 15 to get married.

According to a 2016 UNICEF report, six percent of women in Lebanon between 20 to 24 of age got married before turning 18. 

It's time this comes to an end.

In hopes of raising awareness on the issue and exerting pressure on the Lebanese parliament to fight child marriage, the Lebanese Democratic Women’s Gathering (RDFL), a secular non-governmental women's rights organization, has launched a campaign titled "Not Before 18."

The media campaign officially kick-started on October 11, which marked the International Day of the Girl Child.

RDFL aims to raise awareness of the health risks of child marriage and push for a civil law that sets the minimum age of marriage to 18.

As part of the launch, the organization held a conference in the presence of official and civil public figures and released a video that demonstrates the gravity of the problem.

"Because we consider that the marriage of a girl who does not have the intellectual, legal, psychological and health abilities that qualify her to choose freely and consciously or to commit to a contract [...] in our opinion, this is not called marriage, but forced marriage," the President of RDFL, Laila Mrouwe, said in the conference.

"Any girl under the age of 18, even by one day, is still considered a child and has the full right to legal protection from early marriage."

Additionally, the campaign has seen a number of celebrities from different fields voice their support for the initiative through short videos.

In the video released by the organization, an obstetrician and gynecologist sums up the dangers early marriage and pregnancy pose on girls under 18.

"Her body is still growing - the uterus is still underdeveloped and the pelvis is not yet fit to sustain pregnancy," Dr. Faysal Al-Kak says.

"Before 18, you are exposing her to pre-Eclampsia (pregnancy poisoning), which has fatal repercussions. You are increasing the risks of premature delivery and vaginal rupture," he explains. 

Dr. Al-Kak adds that young brides face increased risks of acute anemia, sub-chorionic hemorrhage and gestational hypertension. 

Soon after RDFL launched its campaign, speaker of the Lebanese parliament Nabih Berri referred a proposed law on the protection of children from early marriage to the Administration and Justice Committee for discussion.

The draft law was actually prepared by the RDFL in cooperation with a group of judges and lawyers. It was adopted by MP Elie Kayrouz and presented to Parliament on March 2017. 

However, it remains in the drawers to this day.

In April, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement endorsing the proposed law and urging the Lebanese parliament to "quickly pass legislation to end child marriage in the country."

According to HRW, "The draft law would penalize anyone contributing to or complicit in the marriage of a child with fines equal to 10 times the minimum wage and prison sentences ranging from six months to two years."

Not the first campaign of its kind

Lebanese NGO KAFA has long been fighting for change, launching campaign after campaign in an effort to amend Article 9 of the Lebanese Constitution, which gives religious authorities the freedom to impose their own laws on various issues including marriage, divorce, and child custody.

Back in 2015, KAFA launched its Child Marriage stunt, a campaign raising awareness of the lack of a unified civil personal status law in the country. It featured a video of a wedding photoshoot of a minor and a man three times her age in a public space. 

The campaign revealed the reactions of people on the street. It also received global attention. 

KAFA returned with a new campaign titled "Raise The Age" in 2016 in a bid to keep the pressure up. 

Child marriage continues to be a major global problem

Child marriage is a problem in countries around the world, including the United States

According to the World Economic Forum, 117 countries around the world allow child marriages, either because there is no age specification or it is allowed under certain circumstances.

Globally, UNICEF claims 39,000 child marriages occur daily. While one in three girls in the developing world are forced into marriage before the age of 18.

In recently released global slavery statistics forced marriage was included for the first time showing "money and debt" to be at the heart of the exploitation. 

The figures, from the UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation revealed that 15.4 million people were forced into marriage last year. 

Children account for 10 million of the overall 40.3m total, while women and girls accounted for 71% or 29 million of all modern slavery victims in 2016.