Iraq has proposed scrapping the minimum age for Muslim girls to marry. Shiite conservatives proposed an amendment to a 1959 law that had fixed the minimum age for marriage at 18. This law was passed shortly after the Iraq monarchy fell.

The new bill will authorise the marriage of a girl of any age if religious leaders from the Shiite or Sunni Muslim community, to which her parents belong, give their consent

In effect, it makes “the opinion of the Shiite and Sunni ulema (scholars) obligatory for judges”, said a liberal independent MP, Faiq al-Sheikh, a member of Iraq’s legal commission. He also said that historically, Iraq allowed girls to get married from nine onwards, the same age that Aisha is believed to have been when she married the Prophet Mohammed.

Facing backlash

While there has been plenty of backlash against the bill, people who defend it say that the bill makes no mention of age.  Ammar Toama, who heads the Shiite parliamentary group Fadila, said it “makes no mention of age and stipulates only that she (bride) must be pubescent, capable of deciding, and have the accord of her tutor and a judge”.

He said that the bill aims to bring the law in line with the belief of practising Muslims.

Not surprisingly, the controversial bill has met with a lot of backlash from activists and on social media. Ali Lefta, a 40-year-old teacher in the port city of Basra, said it amounted to “the murder of the innocence of children”

Demonstrations against the bill were held by civilians and women’s rights groups. The United Nations in Iraq has called for wider consultations and for women’s rights to be fully recognised and protected. The bill goes against the UN convention on the rights of children and is a huge step back for a country which is suffering the aftermath of ISIS.

Also Read: New Marriage Bill May Increase Child Marriages In Turkey

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