Iraqi Cabinet Says It’s Ok To Marry 8-year-old Girls: Parliament Debates Child Marriage

In a dramatic step backwards for women’s rights, little girls in Iraq may soon find themselves putting away their dollies and toys, exchanging them for china and lingerie, if a proposed bill is approved that would allow for child marriage with girls as young as 8 years old.

Currently the legal age for marriage in Iraq is 18, or 15 with approval in “urgent” cases, but the proposed “Jaafari personal status law” would drastically lower that age. Even though the rate of child marriage, that under age 18, has been rapidly increasing in Iraq, the current marriage laws have been described as discriminatory against those who are a part of the Shia sect of Islam. Currently 25% of Iraqi marriages involve girls who were married before age 18, and 5% by age 15.

Female Iraqi talk show host Ahlam al-Obeidi, and grandmother of young girls, says, “this is not marriage, but rather the selling and buying of young women.” Former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi told the Telegraph on Tuesday that the law would ultimately lead to the abuse of women. Others argue that such measures amount to legalized child molestation.

Child Marriage Law Debated

Neighboring Iran already has similar provisions in its legal code, allowing for child marriage at the age of nine.

The lengthy draft law was proposed by Justice Minister Hassan al-Shammari, and approved on February 25 by the Council of Ministers, in an effort to court the approval of Iraq’s Shia Muslim majority. Parliament will debate the proposal when it convenes after the April 30 elections, the results of which have not yet been released. It awaits approval by the parliament. The draft containing child marriage appears poised to pass.

There is not a direct statement of the legal age for child marriage; however, the measure does contain a clear reference to the age for divorce, according to the Huffington Post. The backdoor provision sets the minimum age of divorce at nine years according to the Islamic lunar calendar, a calendar that is shorter than the Gregorian calendar by 10 to 11 days, hence, lowering the age for divorce to under nine by conventional standards. Logic dictates that one cannot be divorced until one is married, so the draft by default allows for child marriage as young as eight years old for girls.

The Sharia tradition of child marriage finds its basis and justification in the Quran: “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).” (Bukhari 7.62.88).

Propaganda for the proposed measure can be seen on banners in Iraq which portray a young schoolgirl and reads: “The Jaafari Personal Status Law saves my rights and my dignity.”

Banner Justifies Child Marriage

Besides sanctioning the marriage of little girls, the proposed Jaafari law sanctions marital rape within the Shia population. Time says that the bill would “give husbands license to force their wives to have sex with them anytime.” In all, there are 254 provisions of the draconian measure based on Sharia law, including items that state that:

  • a woman must have her husband’s permission to leave the house
  • Muslims are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims
  • temporary “travelers” marriages of non-Muslims is permitted, which “are often seen as a way to engage in sexual relations in a licit manner”
  • marriage of multiple wives is permissible and legislated
  • a father is automatically granted custody of children over two in cases of divorce
  • husbands are not required to pay financial support (nafagah) when a wife is either a minor or a senior and hence unable to sexually satisfy them,” according to Article 126

The very nature of child marriage, and subsequent pregnancies in young mothers, results in increased maternal and infant mortality, as previously reported in The Inquisitr.

The entirety of the Jaafari law reduces women and girls to sexual playthings, demeaning their very humanity. One Iraqi government employee and father of two daughters has expressed his disdain for the draft bill, including the provisions for child marriage. “This law legalizes the rape and we should all reject it.”

[Images via bing]