Iraq bill would OK girls to wed at age 9

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A controversial bill in Iraq, proposed by former Justice Minister Hassan al-Shammari and passed by the cabinet, would allow girls to be considered adults at age 9 and thus able to marry, NPR reports.

Known as the Jaafari law (after a school of Islam of the same name), it still has to make its way through the parliament. No action will likely be taken until after Iraq forms its new government, following last month's elections. If passed, the law will be voluntary and will only apply to the country's Shia Muslim majority.

It would prohibit Muslim men from marrying non-Muslims, prevent women from leaving the house without their husband's consent, automatically grant custody of children older than 2 to their father in divorce cases and legalize marital rape, according to the Washington Post.

It would permit boys as young as 15 to marry and girls to marry as young as age. Girls younger than 9 could marry with a parent's approval.

Those who oppose the law say that despite some new freedoms in Iraq -- more travel opportunities and internet access, for example -- women's rights are not moving forward and conservative religious politics are becoming more mainstream.

In the end, the law is unlikely to be passed -- it was likely an electoral overture to conservative Shiites -- but it is still unsettling to radio host Ahlam al-Obeidi.

"We are a society plagued by patriarchal attitudes and outdated tribal laws, which are all conducive to violence against women," she said to NPR. "This is not marriage, but rather the selling and buying of young women."

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