The Iraqi parliament is considering a law that would legalise marriage for nine-year-old girls. The ‘Personal Status law’ will also restrict women’s rights in matters of divorce and inheritance, making it much easier to men to abuse their spouses.
The draft law is based on the Jaafari School of Shia law, which was founded by the sixth Shia imam, Jaafar al-Sadiq. It was approved by Iraq’s Council of Ministers in February and must now be approved by the Iraqi parliament.
If passed, the law will apply to Iraq’s Shia Muslims, the majority of the population. Provisions include prohibiting Muslim men from marrying non-Muslim women, legalising rape inside marriage by declaring that a husband has a right to sex regardless of consent, and prohibiting women from leaving the house without their husband’s permission.
The age of marriage will also be lowered to nine years old for girls and 15 for boys. Girls below the age of nine will also be able to marry with their parents’ permission.
Commenting on the proposed law, Human Rights Watch said: “The draft law violates the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which Iraq ratified in 1986, by giving fewer rights to women and girls on the basis of their gender.
“It also violates the Convention on Rights of the Child, which Iraq ratified in 1994, by legalizing child marriage, putting girls at risk of forced and early marriage and susceptible to sexual abuse, and not requiring decisions about children in divorce cases to be made in the best interests of the child.
They added that the law also “ignores article 2 of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women by legalizing marital rape”
Their deputy Middle East and North Africa director, Joe Stork, added: “[The] passage of the Jaafari law would be a disastrous and discriminatory step backward for Iraq’s women and girls. This personal status law would only entrench Iraq’s divisions while the government claims to support equal rights for all.”