Law that could legalize marriage for girls as young as 9 sparks protests in Iraq

An Iraqi woman walks with her fully veiled daughter in Baghdad. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)

In Iraq, a proposed law to allow Muslim clerics to govern marriage contracts has been condemned by women’s rights activists who note that the law would effectively legalize child marriage in the country. Women’s and civil rights groups marched last weekend in protest of the law, which is reportedly a revised and watered down version of an infamous 2014 bill that would have legalized marital rape, banned Muslim men from marrying non-Muslims, and made it illegal for women to leave the house without their husband’s permission.

“This bill contradicts international conventions and the national law in Iraq,” Suad Abu-Dayyeh of Equality Now told The Guardian, noting that the legal age of marriage in Iraq is 18. “If it is approved, in effect, each and every religious sect will follow their clerics. It will be catastrophic for women’s rights.”

While the new law is not yet listed on the parliament’s agenda, on November 1st it was signed in principle by 40 parliamentarians.

Human Rights Watch has also spoken out against the law, adding that they were still analyzing it in order to understand its full implications. According to a petition signed by activists from civil society organizations on Sunday, the law would effectively “authorize religious men to enforce illegal marriages and force girls under 18 to live with their in-laws” and undo provisions for Iraqi women that they won “half a century ago.” Certain Islamic sects in Iraq dictate that women as young as nine can marry because they believe that the prophet Muhammad took a 9-year-old bride, while other sects claim that women should be allowed to marry as soon as they hit puberty.

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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