Iraq withdraws controversial 'child marriage law'

Iraq withdraws controversial 'child marriage law'
Iraq's parliament has dropped proposed amendments to the Personal Status Law which would have lowered the minimum marriage age for Muslim girls, the UK embassy in Baghdad said.
2 min read
23 November, 2017
Iraqi women campaigned against the proposals which threatened to erode their rights [Equality Now]
A proposal in Iraq's parliament to lower the minimum age for Muslim girls to marry to nine years old has been withdrawn, the British embassy in Baghdad said.

The amendment stirred outrage among critics who viewed it as a licence "to rape children".

Conservative Shia deputies on October 31 proposed an amendment to a 1959 law that set the minimum age for marriage at 18.

The initial legislation, passed shortly after the fall of the Iraqi monarchy, transferred the right to decide on family affairs from religious authorities to the state and its judiciary.

But the new bill looked to go back on that - and would have authorised the marriage of any girl if it had the consent of the religious leaders from the Shia or Sunni Muslim community to which her parents belong.

Campaigners across all sects and ethnicities voiced strong opposition against what they called a flagrant violation and backward step for the rights of girls and women.

"This amendment was tried by Islamic parties in 2014, but it failed miserably because of the strong opposition within the parliament.

"Today, the same parties are returning to parliament, exploiting the security situation of the country and the public's preoccupation with the deteriorating security situation in the north of the country," women's rights activist Zeinab al-Waeli told The New Arab

On Thursday, the UK's consulate in Baghdad tweeted that parliament had withdrawn the amendment. 

"Draft amendments to the Personal Status Law have been withdrawn from the agenda of #Iraq's #Parliament," it said. "The amendments would have been a major setback for the rights of #women & #girls."

It added: "The UK stood shoulder to shoulder with civil society & parliamentarians to oppose these amendments & we welcome their withdrawal."

Other amendments to the personal status law were also proposed. 

The original personal status law grants mothers the right to custody and gives wives the right to inherit their husband's estate, while the religious jurisprudence says the custody of children is a matter for the father and that women do not have the right to inherit real estate or land.

A spokesman from the British embassy confirmed to The New Arab "the full package" of draft amendments was withdrawn from the agenda.

Agencies contributed to this report