HRW – “Don’t Legalize Marriage for 9-Year-Olds”

From Human Rights Watch.

Iraq’s Council of Ministers should withdraw a new draft Personal Status Law and ensure that Iraq’s legal framework protects women and girls in line with its international obligations. The pending legislation would restrict women’s rights in matters of inheritance and parental and other rights after divorce, make it easier for men to take multiple wives, and allow girls to be married from age nine.

The draft law, called the Jaafari Personal Status Law, is based on the principles of the Jaafari school of Shia religious jurisprudence, founded by Imam Jaafar al-Sadiq, the sixth Shia imam. Approved by the Council of Ministers on February 25, 2014, it must now be approved by the parliament to become law.

“Passage of the Jaafari law would be a disastrous and discriminatory step backward for Iraq’s women and girls,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “This personal status law would only entrench Iraq’s divisions while the government claims to support equal rights for all.”

The draft law would cover Iraq’s Shia citizens and residents, a majority of the population of 36 million. It includes provisions that prohibit Muslim men from marrying non-Muslims, legalizes marital rape by stating that a husband is entitled to have sex with his wife regardless of her consent, and prevents women from leaving the house without permission from their husbands.

The law would automatically grant custody over any child age two or older to the father in divorce cases, lower the marriage age to nine for girls and fifteen for boys, and even allow girls younger than nine to be married with a parent’s approval.

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