Proposals that would legalize the marriage of nine-year-old Iraqi girls are unlikely to become law, but indicate the growing role of religion in a country some fear is going down the path of neighboring theocracy Iran.
Based on Shi’ite Islamic jurisprudence, the Ja’afari Law’s advocates say it would bring regulation of personal status – comprising family law, wills and inheritance – into line with sharia religious law.
It describes girls as reaching puberty at nine, making them fit for marriage, grants fathers sole guardianship of their children from the age of two, and entitles a husband to insist on sexual intercourse with his wife whenever he desires.
Iraq’s own clerical establishment does not back the bill, making its chance of success very slim. Critics say the draft is all about short-term political advantage, as Shi’ite Islamist parties compete with each other for votes in the run-up to April 30 elections in a highly-charged sectarian atmosphere.