Iraq May Pass Law That Allows Marriage for Nine-Year-Olds

Iraq is considering a law that reduces the status of women to that of slaves, and redefines “woman” as a nine-year-old girl. The Jaafari Personal Status Law would allow marriage for girls as young as nine (and even younger with parental consent!), prohibit women from leaving the house without their husbands’ approval, give all children over age two to the father in cases of divorce, and make marital rape legal. Child marriage is common in other countries as well. One 14-year-old in India named Seema said,

Before I was a kid, and now I’m having a kid. Of course it’s scary.

I personally met a woman who was married at age nine in Yemen. She told me that every day she would watch the sun move across the sky and dread its going down. A less fortunate eight-year-old Yemeni girl died from internal bleeding as a result of consummation of marriage with her 40-year-old husband.

Impoverished families often marry off girls at a young age because they need the dowry, and in order to put their daughter in the care of a man who can provide for her. But sometimes there are other options. Munni, an Indian girl, refused marriage at 13 and found work for herself.

I don’t think my parents want to marry me off now. They think, ‘Our daughter makes a lot of money, and she is helping us.’


Some say that the proposed Iraqi law is not a real threat, pointing out that it is largely a political gesture toward Shiites. It would not require marriage at age nine; it would only allow it. In any case, the law cannot pass until the government forms itself anew, which could takes months. But allowing such a law to come into the realm of possibility sanctions the attitude that such treatment of women and girls is even an option. This affects public opinion, even if not yet public policy, and is under no circumstances acceptable.


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