Preferred Marriage Age

As mentioned in the introduction to this section there is a variety of factors and actors that play a role in deciding the marriage age and partner of women in Palestinian society (the West Bank, Gaza, and Arab Jerusalem). While the survey did not ask whether women chose to marry at the age they did, or ask whether they themselves chose their spouse, they were asked about who in their opinion should decide on a woman's marriage partner. From table 10.6 it would appear that there are few substantial disagreements between men and women on who should decide on a girl's spouse. However, men are slightly more supportive of women's participation in choosing a spouse than women are themselves. Responses to a different question, however, indicate that a considerably greater share of women than men hold the belief that a woman should be allowed to choose on her own.

Table 10.6 In the choice of a girl's husband, which statement do you agree with most. By sex. Percentage.
Daughter's choice alone117
Mainly daughter's choice 8076
Parents should have decisive influence511
Father's choice only45
Do not know01

While the table does not tell us about the realities of whether girls actually choose their marriage partners themselves, general knowledge of the society tells us that decisions about marriage partners tend to be taken more collectively depending on the education, economic status and social outlook of the parents and their daughter.

Similar processes are at work in deciding women's marriage age. While we cannot assess the role women in the survey sample have taken in deciding on their marriage age, we can gauge the degree of satisfaction they have with respect to the age at which they themselves married.

Tables 10.7 and 10.8 represent assessments of women's preferred marriage age when related to a set of questions of what age they think it is right to have their daughter married.

Table 10.7 Do you think it is right to have your daughter married at age.... ? Percentage.
Below 1515 to 1819 to 25 More than 25
No97 6121 75

Table 10.8 Percentage who answers yes to the questions "Do you think it is right to have your daughter married at age...". By marriage age. Percentage.
Daughters marriage age
Actual marriage ageBelow 1515-1819-25More than 25N
20 hi2349029224

Regardless of age, education or marriage age, there is a strong general rejection of marrying before 15, this being considered an inappropriate age for women to marry. While 15 to 18 years are considered comparatively more acceptable, only about 40% of women support this marriage age. Clearly, most women are in favour of marriage at ages 19 to 25 (79%).

Is there a relationship between women's own age at marriage and their preferred marriage age for women generally?

From table 10.8 a clear pattern emerges, implying that the older a woman's own marriage age, the more supportive she is of older marriage ages. However, what is probably most surprising is the general lack of support, especially among women married at 16 years and above, for a marriage age close to the mean for the whole society.

Table 10.9 Would you like your daughter to marry later than you did. By actual marriage age. Percentage.
Actual marriage age
Do not know5977

While a general pattern exists in which women married at later ages prefer a later marriage age for women in general, another pattern can be seen in table 10.9, showing responses to the question of whether women would like a real or imagined daughter to marry later than they did themselves.
Here it becomes clear that almost 70% of women who married between ages 10 to 19 apparently felt that their own marriage age was too young for their daughters. Even among women married well beyond the mean marriage age (20+), a full 22% prefer that their daughters marry at even later ages. In sum, there seems to be a contradiction between the actual ages at which women are getting married in Palestinian society, and women's perceptions of what are the appropriate or preferable ages at which to do so.


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