The Shiite population of Baghdad may take an immense step backward for female equality if a new piece of legislation allowing young girls to marry is passed. The bill called the Jaafari Personal Status Law permits girls that are younger than 9 to marry with only the girl’s father having authority over the match.
On Feb. 25, the Jaafari Law gained approval from Iraq’s Council of Ministers and will affect 65 to 70 percent of the nation.
The bill proposes additional regulations as well including the prohibition of Muslim men marrying non-Muslim women. The document also states that husbands are permitted to sleep with their wives without consent and women may not leave their homes without the permission of their spouse. In divorce cases, the law orders custody of children over the age of 2 to go to the father.
A minimum age for marriage is not directly stated on the document, only instructions for divorce for girls who have reached 9 years old by the lunar Islamic calendar (8 years, 8 months).
Human rights groups are outraged by the impending law. "Iraq is in conflict and undergoing a breakdown of the rule of law," said Basma al-Khateeb, a women's rights activist. “The passage of the Jaafari law sets the ground for legalized inequality."
Iraqi Justice Minister Hassan al-Shimmari backs the bill. He says that the legislation attempts to regulate child marriage ensure the safety of women and children.