Iraqi politicians propose law to let girls as young as nine marry

United Nations and regional women’s rights activists say bill that would apply to Shia community violates child protection measures 

Tuesday 14 November 2017 17:03 GMT
Members of the Iraqi parliament gather to vote on Iraq's new government
Members of the Iraqi parliament gather to vote on Iraq's new government (REUTERS)

A draft law which would allow girls to get married from the age of nine has been put forward for discussion in Iraq’s parliament.

The amendments to Iraq’s Personal Status law - first proposed in 2014 - is based on the teachings of the Jaafari school of Shia religious jurisprudence, and if passed, would only apply to the country’s Shia community.

It was put forward by 40 members of parliament last week, and in theory will be debated by the house - but will need the support of 165 politicians (just over half of Iraq’s 328 representatives) to become law.

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It is highly unlikely the bill would gain such widespread support. Nonetheless, the UN and various women’s rights groups in the region have condemned the proposed legislation.

“I call upon the Council of Representatives to seize this opportunity of the process to amend the Personal Status Law,“ the UN Secretary General’s special representative to Iraq, Jan Kubis, said in a statement.

The Council of Representatives must “conduct a wider consultation on the draft amendments in a participatory manner to recommit to and ensure the full respect, protection and fulfilment of women and girls’ rights in Iraq in relation to matrimonial and other matters,” he added.

In the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, several campaigners have held protests, including Yazidi victims of Isis, Rudaw News reports.

Demonstrations were also held In the Kurdish region of neighbouring Syria, which enshrines feminist principles in its efforts at self-government, and social media posts mocking the proposals lit up social media last week.

Other amendments dropped from the new version of the bill included provisions which would legalise marital rape and prohibit Muslim men from marrying non-Muslims, Human Rights Watch said.

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