BAGHDAD, April 11 (UPI) -- A new law in Iraq would allow 9-year-old girls to wed and would affect the 36 million Shiites in the country.
The law, called the Jaffaari personal status law, is based on the principles of the Jaafari school of Shia religious jurisprudence and is awaiting parliamentary approval.
Aside from the child marriage clause, the law would prohibit Muslim men from marrying non-Muslim women, prohibit women from leaving the home without their husband's consent, and would award custody of all children over the age of two to fathers in the case of divorce. Marital rape would not be considered illegal under the law.
While the law lowers the age for girls to wed to 9, boys will be allowed to wed at 15. Females younger than 9 will be able to marry but only with parental consent. Iraqi women have protested the law and it has been met with harsh criticism from human rights advocates.
"Passage of the Jaafari law would be a disastrous and discriminatory step backward for Iraq’s women and girls," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "This personal status law would only entrench Iraq’s divisions while the government claims to support equal rights for all."
The law is expected to pass the Iraqi parliament soon.