The Iraqi Parliament will convene to discuss the merits of legalizing marriage to girls as young as nine years old.
Justice Minister Hassan al-Shammari, a top government official, proposed the controversial law.
Fawzia al-Babakhan, A female Iraqi lawyer, was disappointed by the proposal that highlights the deteriorating rights of women in Iraq. “We know that the state of women in Iraq is getting worse, despite the intellectual openness that women had benefited from following the American occupation and the removal of the regime,” she said.
The proposed marriage law is known as the Jaafari law, named after a Shia school of Islamic jurisprudence.
Female Iraqi talk show host Ahlam al-Obeidi weighed in on the debate over the bill. “We are a society plagued by patriarchal attitudes and outdated tribal laws, which are all conducive to violence against women.” She continued, “This is not marriage, but rather the selling and buying of young women.”
Robert Spencer, an expert on Sharia law, has argued that the scripture of Islamic texts breeds the type of marriage legislation often seen in Muslim-majority countries. Last year, he wrote of Islamic child marriage, “Islamic tradition records that Muhammad’s favorite wife, Aisha, was six when Muhammad wedded her and nine when he consummated the marriage.” He continued, citing scripture from a hadith (teachings of Muhammad), “The Prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death).”
UNICEF has reported that the top five countries with the highest rates of child marriage are Niger (75%), Chad (72%), Mali (71%), Bangladesh (64%), and Guinea (63%). All five are Islamic-majority states.
Iraq held parliamentary elections on April 30th, but the results have not yet been released. The legislators must wait until the new government convenes to debate the merits of the proposed law.
The Sunni-Shia power struggle within Iraq has bred an environment where citizens are forced to deal with extreme amounts of violence on a daily basis. On Tuesday, a wave of car bombings targeting Shiites killed 28 people.
According to the United Nations, almost 9,000 people were killed in Iraq last year alone.