Approximately 1 in 5 girls are already married off as children every year in Iraq -- potentially setting them up for early pregnancy, domestic violence, poverty and limited education and career opportunities.
Since 1959, the minimum age of marriage in the country has been 18, with some exceptions for 15-18 year olds. However, a new bill that would allow girls as young as nine to be married off in Iraq is being considered by its Parliament.
Introduced 1 November 2017, the proposed bill gives religious sects the power to make decisions on women’s and girls’ rights according to their own beliefs through amendments to the Personal Status Law No. 188 of 1959. Some of these sects would support lowering the age of marriage to nine based on their interpretations of the Quran and their belief that puberty means a girl can be married off.
When young girls are forced to marry, they are essentially subject to state-sanctioned rape and are at risk of increased domestic violence, forced pregnancy and negative health consequences, while being denied education and economic opportunity.
Speaking to The Guardian newspaper, Suad Abu-Dayyeh who is a Middle East and North Africa expert at international women's rights organisation Equality Now , said: “This bill contradicts international conventions and the national law in Iraq. If it is approved, in effect, each and every religious sect will follow their clerics. It will be catastrophic for women’s rights.
“We are outraged, and we will be supporting women in Iraq by issuing alerts about the bill. We are also writing letters to the speaker of [parliament] and the president.”
This new bill contradicts Iraq’s Constitution, international law and target 5.3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, but it’s already been signed by 40 Iraqi Parliament members and approved in principle. A full vote on the bill is not yet on the Parliament’s agenda, but it could happen any day.
“Any move from government to religious sects could also see changes to laws regarding divorce, custody and inheritance, as well as marriage. I think we will see an explosion of child marriage in Iraq if it’s passed. It’s not logical, we’re in 2017 and we’re still going backwards on women’s rights!”, says Abu-Dayyeh.
Women and human rights organizations, including Baghdad Women Association and Iraqi Women League, have been protesting the outrageous proposal and are asking for your help.
About Equality Now:
Equality Now is an international human rights organization that works to protect and promote the rights of women and girls around the world by combining grassroots activism with international, regional and national legal advocacy. Our international network of lawyers, activists, and supporters achieve legal and systemic change by holding governments responsible for enacting and enforcing laws and policies that end legal inequality, sex trafficking, sexual violence, and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage.