Iraq: Court session resumes over the marriage of a 12-year-old girl | Children’s Rights News
Baghdad, Iraq – A court has resumed a case in which a judge was asked to formalize a religious wedding between a 12-year-old girl and a 25-year-old man, sparking fears across Iraq.
It was not clear if the ruling would be issued on Sunday.
The court in Baghdad’s Kadhimiya district had postponed the case last week as protesters gathered in front of the court chanting and holding banners reading: “Child marriage is a crime against children” and “No to child marriage.”
“Kids should be at home watching cartoons, not getting married,” one protester said in court last week. “That’s why we’re here today to show our condemnation.”
The case was first brought to light when the girl’s mother – in a video clip – called on the authorities to rescue her daughter. The mother told local media that her 12-year-old daughter was raped and forced to marry her stepfather’s brother.
But a department in the Ministry of Interior that deals with violence against women said in a statement after meeting the girl, her father, and her husband that it was confirmed that she was not forced into marriage.
Hala, a women’s and children’s rights advocate in Iraq, told Al Jazeera, who requested anonymity only by her first name.
The law in Iraq states that the legal age for marriage is 18, but it can be reduced to 15 in “urgent” cases if the person’s father consents to the marriage.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), a global legal document aimed at protecting women’s rights, also states that marriage under the age of 18 is a form of forced marriage.
But despite the legal provisions, child marriage is widespread in Iraq, especially in rural areas, and other countries in the region. Poverty and religious practices prompted many fathers to marry off their young daughters, hoping that it would ease the burden on the family or bring financial support.
According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) conducted by the Government of Iraq and published in 2018, 7.2% of married women aged 20-24 years married for the first time before the age of 15, and 20.2% were married before the age of 18.
“Child marriage is a human rights violation, threatens girls’ development and often leads to early pregnancy and social isolation, with little education and poor vocational training reinforcing the gendered nature of poverty,” said UNICEF, a participant in the survey.
Despite the hype surrounding the case, many other girls aren’t enjoying the same level of attention, according to legal professionals.
Maryam Al-Bawab, a Baghdad-based lawyer who works on children’s rights issues in Iraq, told Al Jazeera: “This case is receiving special media attention because the girl’s mother has taken to social media and sparked a nationwide debate.”
“However, there are thousands of cases that have been kept hidden from the media, and many of these marriages go ahead without warning or conviction.”
Save the Children, an international NGO, has called for the minimum age of marriage to be at least 18 and any exceptions to this rule removed.
“You would think the story in Capernaum would be fiction, but in reality, its plot is replayed every day here in Iraq,” Hala said, referring to the 2018 Lebanese film with a story that involved a cash-strapped family attempting to sell their daughter. The 11-year-old for two chickens.