Iraq: Court hearing resumes on marriage of 12-year-old girl

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Despite the uproar over the case, legal scholars say that many other child-marriage situations do not receive the same level of attention.

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Baghdad, Iraq – A court has resumed hearing a case in which a judge was asked to formalize a religious marriage between a 12-year-old girl and a 25-year-old man, sparking concern across Iraq.

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It was not clear whether the verdict would be delivered on Sunday.

The court, located in Baghdad’s Kadmiya district, last week adjourned the case as protesters rallied in front of the court, chanting and chanting slogans: “child marriage is a crime against children,” and “not for child marriage”.

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“Kids should watch cartoons at home, not get married,” said a protester in front of the courthouse last week. “That’s why we’re here today to show our condemnation.”

The matter first came into limelight when the girl’s mother in a video pleaded with the authorities to save her daughter. The mother told local media that her 12-year-old daughter was raped and forced to marry her stepfather’s brother.

A department of the home ministry dealing with violence against women, however, said in a statement after meeting the girl, her father and her husband that it was assured that she was not forced into the marriage.

“Never mind, marriage between a 12-year-old girl and a 25-year-old man is not acceptable,” Hala, who advocates for women’s and children’s rights in Iraq, told Al Jazeera. by his first name.

Law in Iraq states that the legal age for marriage is 18, but that this can be reduced to 15 in “urgent” cases, if the father of the person in question consents to the marriage.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, a universal legal document aimed at protecting women’s rights, also states that marriage under the age of 18 is a form of forced marriage.

Yet despite legal provisions, child marriage remains rampant in Iraq, especially in rural areas and other countries in the region. Poverty and religious practices prompted many parents to marry off their young daughters, in the hope that this would either ease the burden of the family or provide financial support.

According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) conducted by the Government of Iraq and published in 2018, 7.2 percent of married women aged 20 to 24 had their first marriage before the age of 15, and another 20.2 percent were married by age 18. It happened before age.

UNICEF, who participated in the survey, said, “Child marriage is a violation of human rights, compromising the development of girls and often resulting in early pregnancy and social isolation, with low education and poor vocational training reinforcing the gender nature of poverty.”

According to legal professionals, despite the uproar over the matter, many other girls do not receive the same level of attention.

Maryam Albawab, a Baghdad-based lawyer who works on children’s rights cases in Iraq, told Al Jazeera: “This case has received particular media attention because the young girl’s mother took to social media to spark a nationwide discussion. “

“However, there are thousands of cases that have gone under the radar of the media, and many of those marriages went ahead without any notice or condemnation.”

Save the Children, an international NGO, has called for the minimum age of marriage to be at least 18 years and to remove any exceptions to this rule.

“You thought that the story in Capernaum would be all fiction, but in reality, its plot is being repeated every day here in Iraq,” Hala said with a story, referring to the Lebanese film released in 2018, which featured a There was a family full of money. To sell his 11 year old daughter in exchange for two chickens.

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