A new law recently approved by the Iraqi cabinet would permit the marriage of nine-year-old girls.
Based on Shiite Islamic jurisprudence, the new legislation also asserts a husband’s right to insist on sexual intercourse with his wife whenever he wishes, and makes the father sole guardian of his children at age two.
On Saturday, International Women’s Day, a group of Iraqi women demonstrated in Baghdad against the new legislation:
“On this day of women, women of Iraq are in mourning,” the protesters shouted.
“We believe that this is a crime against humanity,” said Hanaa Eduar, a prominent Iraqi human rights activist.
“It would deprive a girl of her right to live a normal childhood.”
The United Nations’ representative to Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, also condemned the legislation. Mladenov wrote on Twitter the legislation “risks constitutionally protected rights for women and international commitment.”
The legislation, referred to as the “Ja’afari Law,” describes girls as reaching puberty at age nine, thus making them fit for marriage. The legislation also condones a husband’s right to insist on sexual intercourse with his wife whenever he wishes, and makes the father sole guardian of his children at age two.
The legislation was originally proposed by justice minister Hassan al-Shimari, a member of the Shiite Fadila party, and approved by the cabinet on February 25. Before becoming official, the legislation must be reviewed by parliament.
Shiite religious parties first attempted to pass a version of the law in 2003 under U.S. occupation, angering secular Iraqis and prompting protests. Since then, amid Iraq’s turmoil, the tug-of-war has continued between Iraq’s secularists and Islamists.