A schoolgirl passes a banner promoting the Jaafari Personal Status law in 2014. The banner states that the law "saves my rights and my dignity." File photo: Karim Kadim/AP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Human Rights Watch welcomed the Iraqi parliament’s rejection of controversial amendments to the Personal Status Law that would have allowed girls as young as eight or nine to be married.
Under the proposed changes to the law, religious communities would be granted powers to impose family laws. Addressing matters of marriage, divorce, and inheritance, girls and women would have lost many protections such as property and financial rights in the case of divorce and rights to inheritance, according to Human Rights Watch.
The parliament’s women’s rights committee blocked the law from being past in mid-November.
“Parliament’s women’s rights committee has made a great contribution to Iraqi society in rejecting this effort to scuttle Iraq’s family law protections,” said Belkis Wille of Human Rights Watch on Sunday.
The draft law was widely condemned. In November, the United Nations
urged the parliament to ensure full protection of women’s and girls’ rights. The UK
also warned against the “backward step” and Kurdish activists
raised a petition against the draft law.
Women’s activists warned that some parties would continue to push for the amendments in an effort to gain votes in the May 2018 parliamentary elections.
The draft amendments, based on the Jaafari school of Shiite religious jurisprudence, were being backed by Shiite Islamic parties. Yanar Mohammed, president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, told Human Rights Watch she feared some Sunni lawmakers may also support the move to give greater authority to religious leaders.
Warning that the amendments could be used a “leverage to try to whittle away” at current protections for women, Wille urged parliamentarians to reject “efforts to reverse the progress Iraqi society has made in creating laws that protect all of its citizens.”