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

The draft law ignores article 2 of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women by legalizing marital rape, Human Rights Watch said. The CEDAW committee, the body of international experts who review state compliance with the convention, in its February 28, 2014 review of Iraq’s reports, urged the government to “immediately withdraw the draft Jaafari personal status law.” The law also appears to violate the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by granting fewer rights to certain individuals on the basis of their religion.

The draft law also starkly contrasts with article 14 of Iraq’s constitution, which prohibits “discrimination and distinction between Iraqis” and guarantees the equality of all Iraqis “without distinction to religion, faith, nationality, sex, opinion, economic or social status.” Article 13 of Iraq’s constitution stipulates that it is the “supreme law” in Iraq and that “no law that contradicts this Constitution shall be enacted.”

In addition to its concern over the draft’s specific discriminatory provisions, the CEDAW committee concluded that, more generally, “identity-based personal status laws and customs perpetuate discrimination against women and that the preservation of multiple legal systems is in itself discriminatory against women.” The committee has previously said that the lack of individual choice relating to the application or observance of particular laws and customs exacerbates this discrimination.

A broad spectrum of Iraqi rights activists, Sunni and Shia religious leaders, and judges have criticized the draft law as discriminatory, violating religious texts, and, because the law would single out one sect, entrenching sectarian divisions in law. The Iraqi Women’s Network, an association of women’s rights groups, held protests on March 8, International Women’s Day, calling it a day of mourning in Iraq.

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