Girls are marriageable at nine, according to Iraqi parliament

March 18, 2014

A contentious draft law being considered in Iraq could allow girls as young as nine to get married. It would also require wives to submit to sex with their husbands against their will (legalised rape) and make it easier for men to take multiple wives. The bill has provoked outrage from rights activists and many Iraqis who see it as a step backward for women’s rights.

The measure is aimed at creating different laws for Iraq’s majority Shiite population, who make up 65 percent of the Iraqi population, and is known as the Jaafari Personal Status Law, based on the principles of a Shiite school of religious law founded by Jaafar al-Sadiqin in the eighth century.

Human rights groups in Iraq, including Hivos partners Organisation for Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) and Wadi have reacted with horror to the draft  law and are fighting to prevent it from being adopted. Human Rights Watch called the bill disastrous for women and girls.

The NGOs point out that the legislation is in conflict with international treaties, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child .

Parliament must still ratify the bill before it becomes law. For more details, see the opinion piece by Haifa Zangana in the right sidebar under ‘See also’.


Parliamentary Questions sent on 17 March 2014 by Dutch MP Van Bommel (Socialist Party) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs regarding the draft law on child marriage in Iraq:

Question 1:
Are you acquainted with the Human Rights Watch press statement «Iraq: Don’t legalize marriage for 9-year-olds»?

Question 2:
Can you confirm that the Iraqi council of ministers has approved the draft law that stipulates that girls from the age of nine are legally permitted to marry, that rape of women within marriage is allowed and that women may not leave their house without the permission of their husband? If not, what are the actual facts?

Question 3:
Is it known to you when the Iraqi parliament will convene to discuss the draft law?

Question 4:
Do you share the opinion of Human Rights Watch that this draft law is in breach with international conventions to which Iraq is a signatory, namely the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Child’s Rights?

Question 5:
How do you evaluate the draft law, approved by the council of ministers, in accordance with current Iraqi laws? Do you share the opinion of the human rights organisations that the new draft law would have a disastrous and discriminating impact on women and children?

Question 6:
Are you willing to contact, in short notice, your Iraqi colleague to share your concerns about the draft law and urge that the Iraqi parliament ensures this draft law remains in compliance with the international conventions to which Iraq is a signatory? If not, why not?