Iraqi Parliament to legalize marriage for girls as young as 9

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Iraqi Parliament to legalize marriage for girls as young as 9

New law will prohibit marrying   non-Muslim women unless temporary

By Ali Younes

Inside of the Baghdad Convention Center, where...

Inside of the Baghdad Convention Center, where the Council of Representatives of Iraq meets. This photo shows delegates from all over Iraq convening for the Iraqi National Conference. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a controversial move, the Iraqi parliament is set to legalize the age of marriage for girls as young as 9 years old and prohibits the marriage of non-Muslim women unless it is temporary.

The law which is called the “Jaaferi law”, was passed by the Council of Ministers last February  and was sent to the Parliament to vote on it  before its recess for the summer.  The new” Jaafari law” will regulate the civil- religious affairs of the Shia community in Iraq and according to local newspapers is identical to Iranian law that regulates matters of marriage, divorce and  inheritance.

Iraqi human rights  organizations and women rights groups criticized  the law as a “set back “ for Iraqi women and called  on the government to reconsider its position. The Iraqi law of 1959,however, set the minimum age of marriage for girls as 18 and without the consent of parents,  but also  can be as young as 15 with parental approval.

Iraqi newspaper Al Mustaqbal  which published the proposed law reported that Iraqi women activists protested the new law and called on the parliament to rejected it.

The new law will also prohibit the marriage from non Muslim women unless temporarily . Temporary marriage known in Arabic  as “ mut’a” which means “ pleasure” is a certain  form or marriage that establishes a legal contract of  marriage between two consenting adults for a set period of time that can range from few hours to weeks or months.  Although this practice is wildly controversial is  practiced within the Shia community in  Iraq, Iran and Lebanon, it is also  considered illegal and prohibited by mainline Islamic legal thought.

Article 49 of the Iraqi constitution  stipulates that Iraqi religious groups of Christians and Muslims and others   are free to adhere to their religious laws that regulates their marriages, inheritance and divorce.

The Civilized Debate, an organization that defends the civil and human rights of Iraqis through debates reported on its  website that there were 6 deaths and 200 cases of divorces of young girls who were married off as minors last year. The website also said that the marriage of young girls in Iraq became prevalent  in the aftermath of the American invasion in 2003 when the American Occupation Authority suspended the Iraqi constitution and laws that set the legal punishment for  the fathers and the bridegroom of young girls as long as life term in prison.   The report also quoted the Iraqi Minister of Planning Ali Shukri stating that “Iraq is the number one country in the world in marriages of young girls.” He also said that as much as 11 percent of total marriages in Iraq were marriages of young girls who typically come from poor and rural  backgrounds and  were forced into marriage by their parents .

Arranged  marriages of young girls to old rich men from the Arab Gulf states is a known practice among poor families in  Egypt and was discovered  to have taken place in Zaatari Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. Several Arab human rights organization called this marriage a  “legalized rape” and called for an end of this practice and to established strict legal punishment for those who practice it and facilitate it.

(Ali Younes is the Editor of the Arab Daily News. Follow him on Twitter @ClearAli)

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Ali Younes

Ali Younes

Ali Younes is the Editor of The Arab Daily News online newspaper. He is a veteran news-editor, Journalist, and a Middle East analyst based in Washington, D.C. He is a member of Washington Association of Arab Journalists and the National Arab American Journalists Association and listed as one of the US State Department’s Middle East analysts and experts. He is also a contributing analyst for several Arabic, American and International news channels such as Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, Dubai TV, Fox News, NBC, ABC, CBS, BBC and Russia Today.

His columns appeared in major US publications such as the Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Tribune, and the USA today among others.

Reach Ali at aliyounes@TheArabDailyNews.com

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