After Iraq gained independence, a tradition of child marriage – called “fasliyah” – persisted in its rural areas. Upon their fathers’ orders, Iraqi girls were betrothed to men to resolve tribal disputes or incur favor.
But in the mid-1970s, fasliyah was prohibited as the nation moved toward modernity.
“This decree [banning fasliyah] constituted the first step toward a civilized Iraqi community,” reports the Middle East publication Al-Monitor, “which would put an end to the failures of the tribal… society.”
However, Iraq is set to pass a law that will legalize child marriage for girls as young as 9 – the age the girls reach puberty, according to Iraqi legislators – to get married and boys as young as 15.
In addition, the Jaafari Personal Status Law, it would prohibit Muslim men from marrying non-Muslims, prevent women from leaving the house without their husband’s consent, automatically grant custody of children older than two to their father in divorce cases and legalize marital rape.
The bill does not set a minimum age for child marriage, but the section on divorce has specific rules for girls as young as nine – the age girls reach puberty, according to Iraqi legislators.
“Married underage girls are subjected to physical and psychological suffering,” Hanaa Edwar, head of the charity Al-Amal (“Hope” in Arabic), told AP.
“It [the bill] turns women into tools for sexual enjoyment. It deletes all their rights.”
Supporters of the Jaafari law, named after a Shia Muslim school of jurisprudence, say the bill is merely regulating practices already existing in day-to-day life.